The American Solar Challenge, previously the SunRayce, is a biennial cross country car race developed to showcase the talents of engineers from around the world. The race is designed to cover 2300 miles and crosses the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains, and the Great American Desert. The contest is sponsored by the United States Department of Energy. The 2300 mile course is the longest solar car race and roughly 60 teams will compete from various companies, universities, and clubs.
Solar racing has been around for more than ten years with races conducted regularly in Japan, Australia, and the United States. The intention of the solar racing is to provide a competetive and fun environment where alternative fuel sources can be actively studied.
The cars themselves can range in price from 40,000 dollars up to 1,000,000 dollar. Designed to be high performance vehicles, they run on approximately 1200 Watts or 2 horsepower. Despite the low amounts of power, these vehicles are still capable of running at near highway speeds due to the lightweight, efficient design.
There are two basic design classes; standard class requires the use of commercial grade solar cells and lead acid batteries, while open class allows a much wider selection of materials. No matter which class is chosen, however, solar power is the only allowable means for battery charging.