Every two years, a grueling 3,000 kilometer (1,864 mile)-long race called the World Solar Challenge takes place in the Australian Outback. The cars that compete aren’t your typical gasoline-powered vehicles—they run entirely on solar power.
To make it to the finish line, teams of university students and engineers from private companies must build cars that efficiently soak up sunlight and convert its energy into electricity. They also design their cars to be aerodynamic. The cars have a sleek shape that allows them to cut through the air, reducing drag—the force of air molecules pushing against an object. That way, the cars can go farther while using less energy.
“Driving that far through the middle of nowhere with a car that runs purely on solar energy is an amazing experience,” says Daniël Willemsen of the Netherlands. He’s on the Nuon Solar Team, which won the race last October.