Futuristic solar car set for Australian race

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The team behind a new solar-powered car took it for its first public spin August 11 at Amsterdam's Olympic Stadium, showcasing technology that could one day be commonplace on the cars we drive every day.

The Nuna 6 vehicle is one of over 40 entrants to this year's World Solar Challenge, a 3,000 kilometer adventure contested by 21 countries that sees entrants cross Australia from Darwin to Adelaide, powered only by the sun.

The contest, which started in 1999, is regarded as one of the world's leading showcases for potential solar technology and attracts entrants from top universities all over the world who are willing to test their creations on one of the world's toughest proving grounds.

The Nuna 6 team, hailing from Delft University and sponsored by Nuon and DSM, has an enviable record, winning four of the last five contests - and it says this year's entry could win back the trophy it lost in 2009.

It's latest invention certainly striking - a futuristic three-wheeler which measures 4-meter long and is shaped like a large wing to maximise aerodynamic efficiency and provide enough space for solar panels, which completely cover the top.

In fact, it's so sleek that the car's total drag is roughly equivalent to that of just the side mirror of a truck traveling at 100km/h, giving the model a total energy consumption ten times lower than that of a modern electric vehicle.

The bodywork, developed by materials and life sciences company DSM, could also hint at the future of cars to come - it's a strong, rigid resin formulation which is lightweight while reducing vibration, allowing Nuna 6 to go faster with less energy.

"The materials used in Nuna 6 may look like they belong in science fiction, but we are already helping mainstream carmakers improve the energy efficiency of their vehicles through lighter and stronger materials like these," said DSM's Elvira Luykx.

Fans will be able to see Nuna 6, and the other entries, race in the 11th World Solar Challenge, which runs October 16 to the 23, 2011.