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October 29, 2009

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Japan's Tokai Challenger wins Aussie solar-car competition

A SOLAR car made by students from Japan's Tokai University yesterday won a 3,000-kilometer race across the Australian outback.

It's a competition meant to show that green cars can also be mean.

The Tokai Challenger crossed the finish line just north of Adelaide yesterday afternoon after a smooth run. The only issue along the way: one flat tire.

"The victory by Tokai Challenger is the first by a Japanese team since 1993, when the event was won by Honda Dream II," said the organizers of 2009's Global Green Challenge.

The race of solar cars is held in Australia every two years.

The Tokai Challenger had started the event in fourth position when a fleet of 31 solar-powered cars, a showcase of prototypes from 16 countries, set off from Darwin on Saturday.

But the Japanese car moved into the lead at the end of the first day, pulling ahead of favorites Michigan University's Infinium and the Netherlands' Nuna V.

The Tokai Challenger is a one-passenger car able to reach a maximum speed of 150km per hour.

Its 6 square meters of solar panels are the car's only energy source, according to the event's Website.

On the first day, Belgium's Umicar Inspire from the Umicore Solar Team crashed after losing control during a wind gust 380km into the race. The car was withdrawn from the event.

Race spokesman Mike Drewer said the second and third running cars were expected to cross the finish line this morning.

The solar race, staged every two years since 1987, was joined this year by another event, the Eco Challenge.

Seventeen eco-friendly cars from 10 manufacturers are competing to prove which is the most fuel-efficient. This race is expected to finish on Saturday.


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