Here comes the sun: solar-powered cars


It may feel like dark days are ahead every time you pull up to a gas station, but pockets of people around the world are trying to change that.

Exhibit A: the world's longest race involving solar-powered cars. Right now, 25 cars are competing in a 2,400-mile race from Plano, Texas to Alberta, Canada. The 2008 North American Solar Challenge (NASC) is a contest to design, build and drive solar-powered cars and then whip the other person's butt in a cross-country race. Not that this is going to become anything like the Cannonball Run, the illegal highway races that inspired the 1981 movie, The Cannonball Run. According to a blog from one of the teams, the average speed in this race is 41 miles per hour.

Not that we're going to be buying solar-powered cars any time soon. The competitors are primarily engineering students from various colleges around the United States, Canada and Europe, and we're still in the experimental stages. For instance, the car being driven by students from the University of Minnesota cost between $200,000 to $300,000 to build (the money came from funding and corporate sponsorships). Even if someone wanted to pay that much for a car, their vehicle only seats one person.

This is also the first year that the university's car has been retrofitted so someone can sit upright, which makes me wonder how comfortable these automobiles used to be.