The Solar Car
Motoring took on a whole new look when Dutch students used space technology to build Nuna, the ultimate car for the 21st century.
Nuna finished first in the 2001 World Solar Challenge, a 3 010 km race right across Australia for solar-powered cars. It broke four world records, finishing the race in 32 hours 39 minutes at an average speed of 91 km/h. Then it went on to win the race again in 2003 – again shattering all records.
The streamlined machine had many advantages. Shaped to reduce air resistance, the outer shell was made of space-age plastics to keep it light yet strong. The main body was made from carbon fibre reinforced with Kevlar, a material used in satellites.
The car's surface was covered with very efficient gallium-arsenide solar cells that were first developed for satellites such as ESA's SMART-1 lunar explorer. Nuna also carried small devices that guaranteed maximum output from its battery and the solar cells, even when the car was in shade or the weather was cloudy. These devices are used on many satellites, such as ESA's Rosetta comet chaser.