Solar cars begin race across Australian desert

SYDNEY, Oct 8 (Reuters) - The World Solar Challenge began on Sunday with 42 solar cars crossing Australia's tropical north to its southern shores, a grueling 1,864 mile race through the outback.

The race from the northern city of Darwin to the southern city of Adelaide is expected to take a week for most cars, with speeds of 55-62 mph powered only by the sun.

The fastest time was achieved by Japan's Tokai University in 2009, completing the transcontinental race in only 29 hours and 49 minutes.

Belgian team Punch Powertrain started first on Sunday after recording a trial time of 2:03.8 for 1.78 miles, hitting an average speed of 51.5 mph.

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Solar cars race across Australian desert
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Solar cars race across Australian desert
TENNANT CREEK, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 09: University Tokai Challenger vehicle 'Tokai' from Japan races between Renner Springs and Tennants Creek in the Challenger Class on Day 2 of the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge on October 9, 2017 in Elliott, Australia. Teams from across the globe are competing in the 2017 World Solar Challenge - a 3000 km solar-powered vehicle race between Darwin and Adelaide. The race begins on October 8th with the first car expected to cross the finish line on October 11th. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images for SATC)
ELLIOTT, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 09: Western Sydney Solar Team vehicle 'Unlimited 2.0' from Australia racing in the Challenger Class crosses a cattle grid races in the Challenger Class on Day 2 of the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge on October 9, 2017 in Elliott, Australia. Teams from across the globe are competing in the 2017 World Solar Challenge - a 3000 km solar-powered vehicle race between Darwin and Adelaide. The race begins on October 8th with the first car expected to cross the finish line on October 11th. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images for SATC)
TENNANT CREEK, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 09: Western Sydney Solar Team vehicle 'Unlimited 2.0' from Australia races in the Challenger Class races between Elliott and Tennants Creek in the Challenger Class on Day 2 of the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge on October 9, 2017 in Elliott, Australia. Teams from across the globe are competing in the 2017 World Solar Challenge - a 3000 km solar-powered vehicle race between Darwin and Adelaide. The race begins on October 8th with the first car expected to cross the finish line on October 11th. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images for SATC)
ALICE SPRINGS, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 10: University of Michigan Solar Car Team vehicle 'Novum' from the United States of America drives through traffic in Alice Springs as it races in the Challenger Class on Day 3 of the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge on October 10, 2017 in Alice Springs, Australia. Teams from across the globe are competing in the 2017 World Solar Challenge - a 3000 km solar-powered vehicle race between Darwin and Adelaide. The race begins on October 8th with the first car expected to cross the finish line on October 11th. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images for SATC)
ALICE SPRINGS, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 10: University Tokai Challenger vehicle 'Tokai' from Japan drives through traffic in Alice Springs as it races in the Challenger Class on Day 3 of the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge on October 10, 2017 in Alice Springs, Australia. Teams from across the globe are competing in the 2017 World Solar Challenge - a 3000 km solar-powered vehicle race between Darwin and Adelaide. The race begins on October 8th with the first car expected to cross the finish line on October 11th. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images for SATC)
ALICE SPRINGS, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 10: Solar Team Twente vehicle 'RED Shift' of Netherland drives through traffic in Alice Springs as it races in the Challenger Class on Day 3 of the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge on October 10, 2017 in Alice Springs, Australia. Teams from across the globe are competing in the 2017 World Solar Challenge - a 3000 km solar-powered vehicle race between Darwin and Adelaide. The race begins on October 8th with the first car expected to cross the finish line on October 11th. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images for SATC)
ALICE SPRINGS, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 10: Nuon Solar Team vehicle 'Nuna9' from the Netherlands arrives in Alice Springs as it races in the Challenger Class on Day 3 of the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge on October 10, 2017 in Alice Springs, Australia. Teams from across the globe are competing in the 2017 World Solar Challenge - a 3000 km solar-powered vehicle race between Darwin and Adelaide. The race begins on October 8th with the first car expected to cross the finish line on October 11th. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images for SATC)
ALICE SPRINGS, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 10: University Tokai Challenger vehicle 'Tokai' from Japan drives through traffic in Alice Springs as it races in the Challenger Class on Day 3 of the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge on October 10, 2017 in Alice Springs, Australia. Teams from across the globe are competing in the 2017 World Solar Challenge - a 3000 km solar-powered vehicle race between Darwin and Adelaide. The race begins on October 8th with the first car expected to cross the finish line on October 11th. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images for SATC)
ALICE SPRINGS, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 10: University Tokai Challenger vehicle 'Tokai' from Japan drives through traffic in Alice Springs as it races in the Challenger Class on Day 3 of the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge on October 10, 2017 in Alice Springs, Australia. Teams from across the globe are competing in the 2017 World Solar Challenge - a 3000 km solar-powered vehicle race between Darwin and Adelaide. The race begins on October 8th with the first car expected to cross the finish line on October 11th. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images for SATC)
ALICE SPRINGS, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 10: University of Michigan Solar Car Team vehicle 'Novum' from the United States of America drives through traffic in Alice Springs as it races in the Challenger Class on Day 3 of the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge on October 10, 2017 in Alice Springs, Australia. Teams from across the globe are competing in the 2017 World Solar Challenge - a 3000 km solar-powered vehicle race between Darwin and Adelaide. The race begins on October 8th with the first car expected to cross the finish line on October 11th. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images for SATC)
TENNANT CREEK, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 09: Western Sydney Solar Team vehicle 'Unlimited 2.0' from Australia races in the Challenger Class races between Elliott and Tennants Creek in the Challenger Class on Day 2 of the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge on October 9, 2017 in Elliott, Australia. Teams from across the globe are competing in the 2017 World Solar Challenge - a 3000 km solar-powered vehicle race between Darwin and Adelaide. The race begins on October 8th with the first car expected to cross the finish line on October 11th. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images for SATC)
TENNANT CREEK, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 09: Team members of Nuon Solar Team from the Netherlands work on their vehicle 'Nuna9' on the side of the road after they were forced to stop as they race between Renner Springs and Tennants Creek in the Challenger Class on Day 2 of the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge on October 9, 2017 in Elliott, Australia. Teams from across the globe are competing in the 2017 World Solar Challenge - a 3000 km solar-powered vehicle race between Darwin and Adelaide. The race begins on October 8th with the first car expected to cross the finish line on October 11th. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images for SATC)
TENNANT CREEK, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 09: Solar Team Twente vehicle 'RED Shift' of Netherland races between Elliott and Tennants Creek in the Challenger Class on Day 2 of the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge on October 9, 2017 in Elliott, Australia. Teams from across the globe are competing in the 2017 World Solar Challenge - a 3000 km solar-powered vehicle race between Darwin and Adelaide. The race begins on October 8th with the first car expected to cross the finish line on October 11th. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images for SATC)
DUNMARRA, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 09: Team members of Nuon Solar Team from the Netherlands prepare their vehicle 'Nuna9' to catch the first morning sun near Dunmarra on Day 2 of the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge on October 9, 2017 in Dunmarra, Australia. Teams from across the globe are competing in the 2017 World Solar Challenge - a 3000 km solar-powered vehicle race between Darwin and Adelaide. The race begins on October 8th with the first car expected to cross the finish line on October 11th. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images for SATC)
DUNMARRA, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 09: Team members of Nuon Solar Team from the Netherlands prepare their vehicle 'Nuna9' for racing in the first morning sun near Dunmarra on Day 2 of the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge on October 9, 2017 in Dunmarra, Australia. Teams from across the globe are competing in the 2017 World Solar Challenge - a 3000 km solar-powered vehicle race between Darwin and Adelaide. The race begins on October 8th with the first car expected to cross the finish line on October 11th. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images for SATC)
KATHERINE, NORTHERN TERRITORY - OCTOBER 08: JUsolarteam vehicle 'Solveig' from Sweden drives through the town centre of Katherine as it races on Day 1 of the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge on October 8, 2017 in Katherine, Australia. Teams from across the globe are competing in the 2017 World Solar Challenge - a 3000 km solar-powered vehicle race between Darwin and Adelaide. The race begins on October 8th with the first car expected to cross the finish line on October 11th. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images for SATC)
KATHERINE, NORTHERN TERRITORY - OCTOBER 08: Kogakuin University Solar Team vehicle 'Wing' of Japan races between Larrimah and Daly Waters as it competes on Day 1 of the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge on October 8, 2017 in Daly Waters, Australia. Teams from across the globe are competing in the 2017 World Solar Challenge - a 3000 km solar-powered vehicle race between Darwin and Adelaide. The race begins on October 8th with the first car expected to cross the finish line on October 11th. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images for SATC)
KATHERINE, NORTHERN TERRITORY - OCTOBER 08: Kogakuin University Solar Team vehicle 'Wing' of Japan races between Larrimah and Daly Waters as it competes on Day 1 of the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge on October 8, 2017 in Daly Waters, Australia. Teams from across the globe are competing in the 2017 World Solar Challenge - a 3000 km solar-powered vehicle race between Darwin and Adelaide. The race begins on October 8th with the first car expected to cross the finish line on October 11th. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images for SATC)
KATHERINE, NORTHERN TERRITORY - OCTOBER 08: Spectators watch on at the Katherine control stop on Day 1 of the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge on October 8, 2017 in Katherine, Australia. Teams from across the globe are competing in the 2017 World Solar Challenge - a 3000 km solar-powered vehicle race between Darwin and Adelaide. The race begins on October 8th with the first car expected to cross the finish line on October 11th. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images for SATC)
KATHERINE, NORTHERN TERRITORY - OCTOBER 08: Nuon Solar Team vehicle 'Nuna9' from the Netherlands races in the Challenger Class between Darwin and Katherine as it competes on Day 1 of the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge on October 8, 2017 in Katherine, Australia. Teams from across the globe are competing in the 2017 World Solar Challenge - a 3000 km solar-powered vehicle race between Darwin and Adelaide. The race begins on October 8th with the first car expected to cross the finish line on October 11th. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images for SATC)
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But reigning 2015 champions Nuon from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands believes it has a good chance of retaining the prize.

"All the cars look completely different (this year), and all we know is we've got a good car, we've got it running perfectly the last couple of days and we're confident we're going to do everything to win," tour manager Sarah Benninkbolt said Sunday.

Race director Chris Selwood said the biennial event has attracted one of the best fields ever, with teams from more than 40 countries.

"This is the 30th anniversary of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge and competitors want to be part of that. They have been drawn to the challenge of new regulations which reduced the solar array size without limiting the size of the solar car," Selwood said.

25 PHOTOS
Australia's kangaroo roadkill litters outback highways
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Australia's kangaroo roadkill litters outback highways
A kangaroo stands on a disused railway line located on the outskirts of Bourke in outback Australia, August 9, 2017. Picture taken August 9, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
The sheep-dog of farmer Tony Reid jumps up onto him as he inspects a water trough in a drought-effected paddock on Kahmoo Station property, located on the outskirts of the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
The tyre tracks left by farmer Tony Reid's truck can be seen in a drought-effected paddock on Kahmoo Station property, located on the outskirts of the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
Farmer Tony Reid bends down to feel the ground on a claypan as he inspects a paddock on Kahmoo Station property, located on the outskirts of the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
Farmer Tony Reid looks at a water-tank and ditch while inspecting a drought-effected paddock on Kahmoo Station property, located on the outskirts of the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
Farmer Tony Reid opens a gate as he inspects drought-effected paddocks on Kahmoo Station property, located on the outskirts of the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
A dead kangaroo, that got it's paw caught in a fence, can be seen in a paddock on Kahmoo Station property, located on the outskirts of the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
A kangaroo jumps in front of farmer Tony Reid's truck in a drought-effected paddock on Kahmoo Station property, located on the outskirts of the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
A worker uses a hook to drag a dead emu thats was killed by traffic on the highway between the towns of Bourke and Enngonia in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
A kangaroo jumps in a drought-effected paddock on Kahmoo Station property, located on the outskirts of the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
A mob of sheep gather around farmer Tony Reid's truck as he prepares to drop grain for them in a drought-effected paddock on Kahmoo Station property, located on the outskirts of the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
Farmer Tony Reid casts a shadow as he walks across a claypan while inspecting a paddock on Kahmoo Station property, located on the outskirts of the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
The remains of a kangaroo killed by traffic can be seen on the highway on the outskirts of the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
A kangaroo jumps in a drought-effected paddock on Kahmoo Station property, located on the outskirts of the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
Dead moths and bugs can be seen on the windscreen of farmer Tony Reid's truck as he inspects a drought-effected paddock on Kahmoo Station property, located on the outskirts of the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
Farmer Tony Reid walks away after checking a water trough in a drought-effected paddock on Kahmoo Station property, located on the outskirts of the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
A group of kangaroos can be seen in a paddock on Kahmoo Station property, located on the outskirts of the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
The paw of a kangaroo killed by traffic can be seen on the side of the highway on the outskirts of the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
The remains of an emu can be seen near a worker as he uses a hook to drag a dead kangaroo, both which were killed by traffic, off a highway between the towns of Bourke and Enngonia in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
A native Australian bird known as an Emu walks across the highway between the towns of Bourke and Enngonia in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
Farmer Tony Reid casts a shadow as he walks past a water trough located in a drought-effected paddock on Kahmoo Station property, located on the outskirts of the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Farmer Tony Reid walks behind a mob of sheep after he dropped grain for them in a drought-effected paddock on Kahmoo Station property, located on the outskirts of the south-western Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, August 10, 2017. Picture taken August 10, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
A kangaroo killed by a truck can be seen on the main road towards the outback Queensland town of Stonehenge in Australia, August 12, 2017. Picture taken August 12, 2017. REUTERS/David Gray
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Teams come from countries including the United States, Japan, Germany, Chile, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Malaysia, Belgium, Sweden, Iran, South Korea, India, Hong Kong, South Africa, Poland, Thailand, Turkey, Canada, Taiwan and Australia.

The Northern Territory Minister for Tourism and Culture, Lauren Moss said her government's $194,150 sponsorship of the race showed it was committed to achieving 50 percent renewable energy for the territory by 2030.

"Innovation is at the heart of the event and the technology showcased this year will influence continuing solar innovation for vehicles and householders in the future," she said.

"This event is a great promotion for the NT – it shows our ability to innovate to the world."

(Reporting by Benjamin Cooper; Editing by Michael Perry)

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