With all the focus on electric and biofuel-powered cars, it's easy to forget that we can power vehicles with other forms of alternative energy—including solar power. That's what the biannual Global Green Challenge has been proving over and over for the past 22 years. This time around, the challengers are more robust than ever. The winning vehicle, Japan's Tokai Challenger, finished the 1,864-mile race in 29 hours and 49 minutes with a top speed of 93 mph. Most impressively, the Tokai used just 1.8 KW of energy for the whole thing—half the power used by a standard kettle.
All that would make the Tokai an excellent candidate as a mainstream vehicle, if not for one small detail: The car is plastered in 2,176 solar cells. The cells, manufactured by Sharp, consist of rare metals that are usually used in satellites. So we probably won't see ultra-efficient solar-powered vehicles hit the streets any time soon. We could, however, see more plug-in vehicles equipped with small-time solar systems that power peripheral functions (much like the Prius rooftop solar panel).
This year, the World Solar Challenge also started up a second, more practical competition dubbed the "Eco Challenge." The fuel efficiency competition, which is expected to finish on Saturday, includes vehicles from companies like Ford, Honda, Kia, and BMW.
Check out a video of the Tokai Challenger in action below.