A diverse group of racing teams converged on Chile's Atacama Desert on November 16 for the second annual Atacama Solar Challenge. This yearly event brought together crews from different South American countries, including Argentina, Venezuela, Chile and international groups from India and China. The celebration of high-speed renewable-energy-powered vehicles lasted for three days, until November 19, during which time vehicles of all different shapes, sizes and designs traveled nearly 800 miles of rocky desert.
According to The Associated Press, the teams were vying for the $30,000 and $7,000 cash prizes, awarded for the top solar and hybrid-engine cars, respectively. More groups reportedly signed on to participate in the event, including a first-ever team from Venezuela, one of the most oil-rich nations on the continent.
Speaking with MySinChew, a Malaysian Chinese-language newspaper, the captain of the Venezuelan team, Carlos Mata, expressed hope that the exposure to clean energy technology would spur his home country to move away from fossil fuels and embrace a more diverse strategy.
"In a country with a mono-economy based on oil, with an infinite potential of hydraulic energy, and without an energy problem, it is a miracle to build a car like this," Mata told the source. "The import laws in Venezuela meant we could not get all the necessary materials, so we had to adapt what we had. It was a huge effort."
Another vehicle, built by students at Chile's University of Concepcion, utilized an ultra-lightweight design that only weighed 300 kilograms and reportedly could produce up to 950 watts of power. Gabriel Martinez, that team's captain, told MySinChew that the race "applies all the engineering and technology we learn into a sport."
Given the widespread success of the event, there is little doubt that this race and others will continue to flourish, pushing the limits of clean energy vehicles with every mile they drive.