DARWIN, Australia, Oct. 22 (UPI) -- Dutch technology students won the 2015 World Solar Challenge Thursday for the second time, with a car that traveled across Australia at 56 mph fueled only by sunlight.
The team from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands finished first among 50 teams with its Nuna8 solar car.
The race, started in 1987, takes place every two years. Aimed at promoting work on solar-powered vehicles, the race is 1,800 miles long. The Dutch team's 331-pound vehicle completed the journey in four days at an average speed of 56 mph. Second place went to the Dutch University of Twente, while Tokai University of Japan came in third.
The Nuna8 team competed in the top-level class in which vehicles had to traverse the entirety of Australia fueled solely by sunlight. Delft won the challenge in 2013, as well.
Joris van den Berg, who drove the vehicle during the race and helped design its aerodynamics, told Mashable this race was one of the most exciting since the Twente team was so closely behind.
Berg said the vehicle was engineered to maximize efficiency. Its total wind resistance is nearly identical to that of two rear-view mirrors on a conventional vehicle. A 98 percent efficient engine built into one of the car's wheels means it is "really nothing" for the vehicle to achieve its average speed between 59 and 62 mph, using just as much energy as an electric water kettle.
The vehicle did achieve speed of over 81 mph when it needed to overtake other vehicles, a critical action that must be done quickly so as "to go back to the most strategic speed." The vehicle also lacks conventional safety features such as traction control or an anti-lock braking system, so it's "more unstable than a normal car," Berg said.
The driver's cockpit position on the right side also poses a challenge when combined with heavy winds.
No air-conditioning is included either, meaning the small cockpit dealt with external temperatures reaching a high of 111 degrees Fahrenheit. Berg said the crew drank plenty of water, exercised and spent time in a heat chamber to prepare for the race.
Berg said the competition sends the message that "if you want to design something energy efficient, you can do that. That's something that gets you to a sustainable future."