The 2007 Panasonic World Solar Challenge (PWSC) began on Sunday October 21 at 8a in Darwin, Australia and will end on Thursday October 25 in Adelaide. This is the 20th annual running of this event that pits vehicles from all over the world against each other in a friendly competition. Each vehicle is powered only by the sun's rays and must travel 3,000 kilometers in a test of strategy and endurance. The PWSC promotes and celebrates educational and technical excellence, and draws attention to the necessity and ingenuity of sustainable transport. This year's event consists of 57 teams from 17 countries. The event has three different classes with the Challenge Class and Adventure Class representing the 37 solar cars. The third class is for vehicles demonstrating fuel-efficient technologies and is not part of the race. The Challenge Class features newly built solar cars, and the Adventure Class is an open event for the best solar vehicles in the world. Over the event's 20 year history, the average speed of solar cars has risen significantly. The 1987 winner's average speed was 67 km/h. Fast forward to 2005 when the winning vehicle had an average speed of 103 km/h with a maximum recorded speed of 147 km/h. There are only three main restrictions to the Challenge: vehicle dimensions, daily travel times of 8am-5pm, and vehicle propulsion derived only from direct global solar radiation. Here are highlights of the results for the first two days of the race. The TIGA car from Japan is in first place, the Nuna4 car from the Netherlands is in second place, and the Umicar Infinity from Belgium is in third place. Of special interest to automation folks is the University of Waterloo's Midnight Sun IX car. As reported in this blog on October 15, the Midnight Sun is sponsored by Woodhead Industries, a division of Molex Incorporated. The Midnight Sun is currently running 21 out of the 37 entrants and will try to make up some ground over the next few days. See http://www.wsc.org.au/LIVE.event/index.html for more info and to follow the race live.