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World Solar Challenge: The teams, the cars, the contenders

World Solar Challenge: The teams, the cars, the contenders

21 Oct 2023

World Solar Challenge: The teams, the cars, the contenders

By Matthew Ward Agius | Cosmos

As Cosmos covers the return of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge to the 3020km route from Darwin to Adelaide, science enthusiasts with a sporting soft spot might wonder which team deserves their support.

Fortunately, our guide gives you the ultimate rundown of the teams, their story and some very nicely designed cars.

The 2023 event gets underway on Sunday 22 October.

Follow our event coverage

Challenger entrants  – speed and efficiency

These sleek, fast cars will lead the event on Sunday morning. Teams design their cars to have as little aerodynamic drag as possible while maximising vehicle safety and stability. While teams prefer lithium-ion batteries, other compositions that reduce energy loss are adopted by some of the teams. Solar arrays also tend to be silicon, given recent restrictions on available materials. Top teams will be aspiring to solar efficiency pushing toward the 40% mark (likely in the high 30s) and conversion nearing 100%, while smaller teams will likely have solar efficiency between 20-30%.

This year many teams have moved towards a three-wheeled monohull design, with long, thin cars optimising aerodynamic efficiency. Some teams have stuck to a catamaran design, in a true test of old v new.

2 University of Michigan Solar Car Team (USA)

Naming partner/Affiliations: University of Michigan

First event: 1990

2019 result: 3rd

Best result: 2nd (2017)

One of the oldest teams in world solar racing operating out of the University of Michigan, it has never won the race but is expected to compete for the overall victory. Google founder Larry Page is a former member of the team.

The team says: “Michigan is entering this warm Solar Challenge as very nearly the most experienced team in the field and the many years and documentation of past races that the team has done allows us to be prepared for any sort of weather scenario that might come up. We have pushed every limit that we have set for ourselves in the past and brought every self-imposed restriction into question to make the best bullet car we’ve ever designed.” – Ronak Parikh, electrical engineer and weather strategist.

3 Brunel Solar Team (Netherlands)

Naming Partner: Brunel, Dutch global recruiting agency

Affiliations: Technical University of Delft (TU Delft)

First event: 2001

2019 result: Did Not Finish

Best result: 1st (2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2013, 2015, 2017)

The most successful solar racing team in the world, Brunel has expanded beyond its origins as a solar team from TU Delft to become a standalone racing team in its own right. It is perhaps most famous for its vehicle failure while leading the race with 200km to go in 2019 when the lithium-ion battery suffered a thermal runaway and burnt the car to ashes.

The team says: “Winning is hard, winning multiple times is even harder, especially when [the competition] gets better. So that’s the challenge, that’s what motivates us to this day. We really want to win.” – Lennart Hessels, Team Manager.

6 Top Dutch Solar Racing (Netherlands)

Affiliations: University of Groningen, Hanze University of Applied Sciences Groningen

First event: 2019

2019 result: 4th

Best result: 4th (2009)

A relatively young team from the Netherlands hoping to mix it with longer-established competitors from the region. Theirs was the fastest car over one lap in 2019 but fell behind early in the race to eventually finish just off the final podium.

7 Team Sonnenwagen Aachen (Germany)

Affiliations: FH Aachen University of Applied Sciences, RWTH Aachen University

First event: 2019

2019 result: 6th

Best result: 6th (2019)

Germany’s sole entrant this year is the reigning European Champion. Established in Aachen in the northwest of Germany, this team is hopeful of improving on its sixth placing in the 2019 event.

The team says: “We’ve worked our ass off to be here, and for the past eight years that we’ve existed, we’ve really caught up to the top teams. They’ve been here for a very, very long time and I think now we are finally really, really good competition to them.” – Lina Schwering, Team Manager.

8 Innoptus Solar Team (Belgium)

Naming Partner: Innoptus, Belgian digital industrial consultancy

Affiliations: KU Leuven

First event: 2005

2019 result: 1st

Best result: 1st (2019)

The reigning world champions are a well-drilled outfit returning to Australia to defend its title. It will run the unique ‘fin’ rudder system to stabilise its car during this year’s event.

The team says: “Our solar car’s design philosophy revolves around achieving optimal performance in both energy efficiency and mechanics. We emphasized a harmonious balance between the car’s aerodynamics and the energy harnessed from solar panels. By ensuring seamless integration of these elements, we aimed to maximize overall efficiency.”

9 Adelaide University Solar Racing Team (Australia)

Affiliations: University of Adelaide

First event: 2015

2019 result: 16th

Best result: 16th (2019)

The ‘home’ team of the event. Adelaide University was the best-finishing Australian team in 2019 and is returning with a similar car in 2023. 

The team says: “We actually took the same car that raced in 2017 and 19, and picked out as many issues as we could. In the end, the only part of the car that is the same is the smaller components and the bottom carbon fibre chassis. Everything else is brand new.” – Reily Clavell, leadership team.

10 Tokai University Solar Car Team (Japan)

Affiliations: Tokai University

First event: 1993

2019 result: 2nd

Best result: 1st (2009, 2011)

One of the most successful teams in solar racing is Japan’s Tokai University. It claimed back-to-back victories in 2009 and 2011 and finished runner-up in 2019. The quiet achievers of the pack.

The team says: “As our new challenge aiming for a sustainable society, we used recycled materials for some carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) parts. We also realize ultra-light body by using state-of-the-art CFRP materials. Furthermore, we realized high aerodynamic performance body by using state-of-the-art CFD technology.”

13 TeamArrow (Australia)

Affiliation: independent team

First event: 2013

2019 result: DNF

Best result: 3rd (2017, Cruiser)

Having entered cars in both the Challenger and Cruiser classes, TeamArrow is an independent Australian team based in Queensland, established more like a typical community sports club than a university team or enterprise. After losing most of its members following the pandemic, it has re-established itself for 2023.

The team says: “With the way that we’ve designed [the car], it’s going to be very stable on the road. It might not be as efficient as the other teams, but if we do our strategy right, I think we’ll still do quite well in the positioning at the end. I would expect to finish.” – Andrew Carr, Team President.

15 Western Sydney Solar Team (Australia)

Affiliations: Western Sydney University

First event: 2015

2019 result: 19th

Best result: 6th (2017)

Entering its fourth event, the Western Sydney University team has a mixed history. With a best finish of sixth in 2017, it has also won an American Solar Challenge in the US. Last time it struggled to get to the start line and eventually trailered for part of the event. Expecting a better result in 2023.

The team says: “By no means have we created an inefficient car or a slow car, it’s proven mighty in testing, we’re getting the efficiency numbers that we’ve targeted and I think we have a fair chance to be fairly competitive.” – Divyam Shah, systems and interface lead.

18 UITM EcoPhoton Solar Racing Team (Malaysia)

Affiliations: Universiti Teknologi Mara (UITM)

First event: 2015

2019 result: 21st

Best result: 21st (2019)

The UITM team from Malaysia will return in 2023. It has failed to finish its previous appearances entirely under its own power.

The team says: “It is the first bullet design approach for the team since joining the challenge in 2015 and the first UiTM solar car designed with a 3-wheel configuration to allow for reduced power consumption during travel.”

20 Durham University Solar Car (UK)

Affiliations: Durham University

First event: 2011

2019 result: 14th

Best result: 14th (2019)

Has steadily improved in the finishing order over the years but has yet to reach Adelaide without trailering. The sole UK team competing in 2023.

The team says: “We treat ourselves as the underdogs compared to some of these top teams with budgets of millions of pounds or dollars… we treat our cars more carefully, we design things to be more reliable while still trying to be as cutting edge to stay competitive… From the previous race, we did learn a lot, all of that experience and the data we would get have been passed down to the current team. That knowledge and that drive to get to the end is what we’ve taken forward.” – Anith Sathananthan, Team Principal.

21 Solar Team Twente (Netherlands)

Affiliations: University of Twente, Saxion University of Applied Sciences, ROC van Twente

First event: 2005

2019 result: DNF

Best result: 3rd (2015)

One of the three Dutch teams competing at this year’s event, the ‘red’ Solar Team Twente led the 2019 race for three days before being blown off the Stuart Highway by 70km/h crosswinds late on the fourth day. It’s one of the more successful teams, having won the inaugural Morocco Solar Challenge in 2021, which was established for European competitors after the cancellation of the world event in Australia.

The team says: “This year we have more confidence in the aerodynamics of the car… and we were able to make the car much thinner, which is of course better for aerodynamics and makes the panel more efficient. And besides that, the previous car from 2021 was our first three-wheeled bullet-shaped vehicle. It did really well in Morocco – it won the race there – but we also learnt a lot from that.” – Tim Woertman, Technical Manager.

23 Halmstad University Solar team (Sweden)

Affiliations: Halmstad University

First event: 2019

2019 result: 23rd

Best result: Trailered (2019)

Halmstad University is one of three Swedish teams at this year’s event. Its debut in 2019 was a baptism of fire with a winged ‘open wheeler’ design encountering problems during testing. It’s switched to a conventional ‘bullet’ shape for this year’s event, of which about half is made from recycled parts, in keeping with the team’s sustainability-first philosophy.  It’s hoping for a consistent performance across the race.

The team says: “[Our car] is about reliability, because we want to make it to the finish line, not just to be the first one. We definitely want to make it to the finish.” – Alexander Kulenderv, Mechanical Team Lead.

28 AgniRath (India)

Affiliations: Indian Institute of Technology, Madras

First event: 2023

India has had previous entries but AgniRath from the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras is the nation’s sole competitor in 2023. Its bullet-style challenger has been constructed with axial flux motors specific to a solar car with 98% conversion efficiency.

The team says: “We have focused on optimizing aerodynamics by streamlining the car’s shape and minimizing drag, reducing energy losses and allowing us to achieve higher speeds. Following an iterative design process allowed us to continuously evolve our design making it easily accessible for quick maintenance or replacement of components. We have also implemented backup plans for redundancy, ensuring the durability and reliability of our car, minimizing downtime and ensuring that the car remains operational throughout the race.”

34 ITU ZES Solar Car Team (Türkiye)

Affiliation: Istanbul Technical University

First event: 2009

2019 result: Did not participate

Best result: Trailered

Istanbul Technical University returns to Australia for the first time since 2017 with a new Challenger car. It’s been trailered in each of its three appearances between 2009 and 2017, so will be hoping to make a debut finish entirely under its own power into Adelaide.

37 Goko High School (Japan)

Affiliation: Goko High School

First event: 2013

2019 result: 13th

Best result: 13th (2019)

This high school team from Kure, Japan, has competed in the event since 2013, with its best finish coming last year after trailering just after crossing the SA-NT border.

The team says: “At a high school training facility, we are thinking about materials and shapes that anyone can make by hand. We hope that many privateer teams will be interested in making things by building a solar car that can run well without spending a lot of money. We do not use anything special for the motor, solar PV, battery, etc., and while it is 100% handmade using wet carbon, we are trying to reduce the weight as much as possible and improve efficiency with a thin body shape.”

41 ANU Solar Racing (Australia)

Affiliation: Australian National University

First event: 2017

2019 result: Trailered

ANU Solar Racing is yet to finish a Challenger event under its own steam, but arrives at the 2023 event with a new look car and one of the biggest teams attending the event, notably with a 50:50 gender split.

“This car was designed for the 2021 race originally, which was then cancelled. The chassis is further optimised aerodynamically and for reliability as well. We’re hoping to really smash this race out of the park, being our third race as a team and cement ourselves as a team with more experience and professionalism.” – Isaac Martin, Project Lead.

46 JU Solar Team (Sweden)

Affiliation: Jonkoping University

First event: 2013

2019 result: 10th

Best result: 8th (2017)

The JU Solar Team’s bullet car is unique, with the canopy built into its sleek, teardrop design. It’s Sweden’s top team, having a best placing of eighth in 2017 and inside the top 10 during the last race.

The team says: This car is a higher step than just an incremental one, so I think we can expect a better placement [than 2019] and from my point of view, I think we’re just below the top five. We have a lot more data on the car and we feel that the car is capable of a much better performance. We tested in Sweden and have gone 120km/h top speed and continuously 100km/h and we feel the car is good and stable [at that speed].” – Johannes Söderberg, technical team.

51 Chalmers Solar Team (Sweden)

Affiliation: Chalmers University of Technology

First event: 2019

2019 result: Trailered

Best result: Trailered (2019)

Chalmers returns with a conventional bullet design in 2023 after running an open-wheeler flatbed car in its debut event in 2019. It only just got to Katherine before trailering in its first showing, but having passed scrutineering comfortably, is expected to last the distance this year.

The team says: “The goal is to complete the distance, learn as much as we possibly can and build for the next team” – Antony Styrefors Sparby, Battery and High Voltage team.

57 SOLO: Seoul National University Solar Car Team (South Korea)

Affiliation: Seoul National University

First event: 2023

It’s not the first South Korean team to participate in the event, but SOLO will be the country’s only entrant in its debut. Its three-wheel bullet is built from an aluminium frame and carbon fibre shell.

The team says: “Our solar car embodies the perfect fusion of advanced materials: an aluminium profile body frame, renowned in commercial vehicle chassis, seamlessly blends with the modern allure of carbon fibre. We have drawn inspiration from diverse transportation domains such as control panels for ships, canopies for helicopters, and suspensions for electric bikes.”

61 Wakayama University Solar Car Team (Japan)

Affiliation: Wakayama University

First event: 2023

This Japanese university team from Wakayama Prefecture south of Osaka steps up from Japanese national solar racing competitions (having won in 2016). Its design uses CFRP and a cowled front end as part of its aerodynamic optimisation.

The team says: “Our design philosophy was to create a solar car that can achieve speed and provide sufficient safety. In order to achieve them, we designed a solar car with two points. First, we tried to reduce aerodynamic drag as much as possible. Eventually, we could design a solar car to run at high speeds with low power consumption. The second is to improve the strength of the car body. By doing so, our solar car will never break by strong forces and ensure the safety of the driver.”

77 Blue Sky Solar Racing (Canada)

Affiliation: University of Toronto

First event: 2001

2019 result: 11th

Best result: 5th (2007)

Canada’s Blue Sky Solar Racing team emerges from the University of Toronto. It reported the lowest coefficient of drag among the cars produced over the past two decades with a transparent canopy to reduce solar energy losses due to shadows. The team has seen mixed success over the years but is a consistent top-10 finisher.

The team says: “Something that we really wanted to focus on this cycle was reliability, so how can we make the car as efficient as possible, while making sure that we don’t break down as often? So some things are like our aerodynamics is a little bit better in terms of our air body shape. Other things include the quality of the manufacturing. Last race in 2019, we finished 11th, so we’re trying to step up from there, and just setting realistic expectations for the team as well.” – Nikitha Manickam, Blue Sky Solar Racing

82 SAITEM (Türkiye)

Affiliation: Sakarya University of Advanced Technology

First event: 2009

2019 result: Did not participate

Best result: Trailered

“Despite all the difficulties we have faced, we are looking forward to watching our vehicle, which we have produced by pushing the limits of our engineering, to go to the Australian deserts after many tests in our country.”

85 αCentauri (Switzerland)

Affiliation: ETS Zurich

First event: 2023

‘Alpha Centauri’ is a new entrant but has already impressed race officials with its cutting-edge design and having cruised through scrutineering early in the week, affording plenty of time to fine-tune its vehicle “Aletsch.” A smoky to feature at the end of the race.

88 Kogakuin University Solar Team (Japan)

Affiliation: Kogakuin University

First event: 2013

2019 result: 5th

Best result: 5th (2019)

One of Japan’s top teams, having a best placing of 5th in the last event, it has steadily improved over the years and won an award from the CSIRO for its unique suspension package four years ago.

“The team focuses on developing new elemental technologies needed for future vehicles. New technologies must be world firsts or novelties. Team members [make] designs and philosophies that no one has done before. The team wants to surprise and entertain people around the world with new technology. [We] won the CSIRO Innovation Award at BWSC 2019 for developing a new suspension that uses only natural forces to keep the vehicle’s body angle stable without using electrical energy. And this year, the team will present the world’s first suspension mechanism for the electric vehicle industry.”

92 Eclipse (Canada)

Affiliation: École de Technologie Supérieure (ÉTS)

First event: 2009

2019 result: 9th

Best result: 9th (2019)

The ETS team is one of two Canadian outfits this year and the only team from Quebec. This is its fifth event after a best-placing of 9th in the 2019 edition. Its design is intended to meet requirements across two solar competitions, which may prove a blessing and a curse.

The team says: “We design for both the world solar challenge and the ASC [American] rule sets. At the time of designing ‘Eclipse 11’, the ASC rule set did not permit three-wheeled vehicles. So for us, the choice was more aiming for a four-wheeled bullet – stick to what we know, optimise on that,” – Matthew Albert, Team Captain

93 Estidamah Solar Car Team (Saudi Arabia)

Affiliation: Sustainable Innovations

First event: 2019

2019 result: Did not start

The Estidamah team returns to Australia after a difficult 2019 debut where it was unable to complete the event.

99 TUCN Solar Racing Team (Romania)

Affiliation: Technical University of Cluj-Napoca

First event: 2023

A new team from Romania participating in this event, TUCN was one of the final teams to be scrutineered for the 2023 edition. Will be looking to see how far its ‘SOLISEV3’ car can be pushed in its first test in the Australian outback.

“We designed our car with nature in mind, so it is shaped like a drop of water, aiming to make each area as efficient as possible both electrically and mechanically.” – team statement.

Cruiser Class – the ultimate road trip

This year’s Cruiser class draws together teams from all over the world, designing production-style vehicles capable of carrying multiple passengers. With bodies that evoke sportscars, to large SUVs, to angular concept vehicles, these teams won’t merely seek to reach their control points first. They’re carefully managing their energy reserves to make it to Adelaide without ‘running flat’, as their vehicle weight, solar potential and battery size collectively demand the most precise of strategies.

14 Futurosolare (Italy)

Affiliation: Independent team

First event: 2023

Futurosolare is an independent team from Syracuse in Sicily. It makes its debut in the 2023 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge’s cruiser class with a car dubbed ‘Archimede’.

The team says: “The sinuous and powerful lines, inspired by competitions, the unique spirit of the exterior design continue in the passenger compartment, deliberately minimalist, to fully respect the philosophy of “essentiality.” The tail is high and aerodynamic but with a simple and geometric design. The two-seater passenger compartment, combining sportiness and elegance, but also classic and modern elements, characterize Archimede 2.0.”

25 VTC Solar Car Team (Hong Kong)

Affiliations: VTC Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education

First event: 2013

2019 result: 3rd

Best result: 3rd (2019)

The VTC team placed on the Cruiser Class podium in 2019 and will be hoping to go better again in 2023. Its car ‘SOPHIE’ was sadly caught up in border checks, forcing a late-day scramble on Friday to qualify for the Cruiser class. Typically a very competitive team.  

The team says: “SOPHIE 8 went one step further to not only be built to win the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge but also to promote to the public that solar cars can be the future of transportation. Featuring light-weight, SOPHIE 8 will be re-imagined with interior design, appealing to the public.”

27 Sunswift Racing (Australia)

Affiliations: University of New South Wales

First event: 1996

2019 result: 2nd 

Best result: 2nd (2019)

Australia’s top and longest-established team from UNSW (it’s in the Sunswift name) is favoured to win the Cruiser Class with its world-record-breaking green and gold car. It will also broadcast its journey with the Seven Network on its web player, 7Plus.

The team says: “We are really confident, we feel very, very well prepared. Everyone’s spent so many hours working on this car, but we’ve driven a lot with it. I think a lot of people feel very comfortable. At the world record last year there was an issue, but because we’d seen it so many times and we’d already done all our teething, as soon as it came up, people knew what they were looking for.” – Andrea Holden, team leader.

30 FAST – Flinders Automotive Solar Team (Australia)

Affiliations: Flinders University

First event: 2017

2019 result: 11th

Best result: 11th (2019)

Flinders University’s five-panel car has been inspired by designs like the Tesla Cybertruck and is hoping to post the team’s best result after struggling to finish its first events in 2017 and 2019. The car is akin to a racing sedan, with the team describing it as being incredibly safe, but fun, to drive.

35 University of Minnesota Solar Vehicle Project (USA)

Affiliation: University of Minnesota

First event: 1999

2019 result: 5th

Best result: 4th (2013)

Minnesota is consistent, ranking fifth for the points-based Cruiser Class in its previous three appearances and fourth in 2013.  The car has been designed to meet a tight budget ensuring it can compete in the different regulations in the World and American Solar Challenges.

The team says: “We’ve made improvements on how we compensate for competing in two different races. This time around we built a roll cage that has a configuration for ASC with part of it removable – to be swapped for a [world solar challenge] configuration that is lighter, which allows us to be more competitive.” – Amber Zierden, team leader.

49 Siam Technology Motor Sport (Thailand)

Affiliation: Siam Technology College

First event: 2015

2019 result: Rank 12

Best result: 12 (2019)

The SUV-like Siam Technology College vehicle arrives in Australia with hopes of getting its four-seater to the Adelaide finish. The team has yet to complete a WSC without trailering.

“Our solar car is a sporty 4-seater, using the movements of the betta tail to design a graphic pattern on the car body and using the Thai flag’s colours along with gold to represent the prosperous Thai culture.” – team statement.

66 Solaride (Estonia)

Affiliation: University of Tartu, Tallinn University of Technology, Estonian University of Life Sciences, Republic of Estonia

First event: 2023

Surely the dark horse of the competition. Solaride is pitching itself as the Estonian National Team – supported by the Baltic nation’s government and several universities. It was the first team to pass all scrutineering requirements on the opening day – potentially a first for the event. Its car also looks a bit like the Batmobile.

The team says: “For this competition, we want to make sure that, first of all, we cross the line, the car survives, and then secondly, the idea is that we want you to know performance as well as possible to get a really high spot to the competition.” – Mart Erik Kermes, Team leader

67 ASCEND – Deakin University Solar Car Team (Australia)

Affiliation: Deakin University

First event: 2023

Hailing from one of Australia’s former automotive heartlands, the Geelong-based ASCEND team is a collaboration between Deakin University’s engineering department and Spanish greentech company Acciona. It will be going head-to-head with the Sunswift and Flinders teams and hoping to outdo these two established competitors with its unique natural flax and basalt fibre car.

The team says: “Something’s going to have to go really, really wrong for us to not make the finish line, and if our solar works as we expect it to, which we haven’t been able to test down in our climate, we should be able to harvest enough sun to get over the line. We’ve worked really hard and the team deserves to drive over that [finish line].” Matt Jennings – team supervisor.

80 Sun Shuttle Team (China)

Affiliation: Beijing Institute of Technology

First event: 2013

2019 result: Ranked 6th

Best result: 5th


China’s Sun Shuttle Team competes in the Cruiser class. While, like many teams, it has struggled to clock up the full distance from Darwin to Adelaide without trailering, it has made improvements in energy consumption and aerodynamic drag.

The team says: “On the basis of existing research and accumulation of solar cars, combined with the needs of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, we have broken through the key technology of lightweight low resistance design and developed a lightweight high-speed four-seater solar car, demonstrating the technology and capabilities of solar cars, laying the foundation for practical application and technological promotion.”

95 Apollo Solar Car Team (Taiwan)

Affiliation: National Kaohsiung University of Science and Technology

First event: 2003

2019 result: Did not participate

Best result: 7th (2003)

“Apollo IX is a production-ready vehicle that is 4.5 meters long, 1.5 meters wide and 1.2 meters high, and can be converted into a 5-passenger saloon with a wider design in the future. The hood and roof of the two-passenger sports car are covered in self-developed flexible thin solar modules, and the expandable modular battery pack with the smart battery management system is installed in the safest space in the car and can travel 518 kilometres on a single charge.”