The fastest solar car in the world braves poor weather in Prague

03-06-2004

Many of our listeners will already be familiar with the Nuna 2 - the world's fastest solar-powered car. Last year it won the World Solar Challenge in Australia, clocking a record time of 140 kilometres per hour. Designed and built by a team of students from the Delft University of Technology in Holland, the Nuna is now on a special European tour, setting out from Greece in late May to make its way across the continent in the name of sustainable energy. On Wednesday the car and its team arrived in Prague.

Solar car Nuna 2, photo: CTKSolar car Nuna 2, photo: CTK For the futuristic Nuna 2 the weather could not have been less forgiving: intense showers the Czech capital had not yet seen this year almost spoiling the car's star appearance on Prague's Wenceslas Square. Many bystanders ran off with umbrellas or bags over their heads, leaving only a few huddled groups of dedicated fans hanging-on, hiding under the awnings of nearby hotdog stands.

Members of the Nuna's support team, as well as visiting tourists agreed, conditions were somewhat less than ideal.

"It's terrible, everything is wet and there are no children and almost no people. But yeah, that's it. We'll just have to hope that tomorrow will be a better day."

"We just happened to hear it when just walked by as tourists. We said it was typical Dutch weather, so we're used to it, although we don't like it."

Solar car Nuna 2, photo: CTKSolar car Nuna 2, photo: CTK Still, not even the miserable weather could spoil anticipation of the famous solar car for those "in the know". The Nuna 2 is absolutely state-of-the-art: made from the latest space-age materials. We're also told it provides a cosy drive especially at higher speeds. More than that it represents a mission, one we discussed with team advisor Wubbo Ockels, a former astronaut who served on the space shuttle Challenger. He explained the reasons behind the European tour.

"You don't need to be a rocket scientist to know that if you have a spacecraft you need to just take care of it. If you see the Earth yourself at a distance you realise that the Earth is our 'spaceship', in fact. But, with the Earth we're just absolutely lousy. We're just making problems for our children. And, so, I have a very strong motivation to show the younger generation that now is the time for them to take the future into their own hands. We want to demonstrate that with high technology you can create a sustainable future that is very beautiful. There's no way around it anymore."

Honourable intentions indeed, which made arrival of Nuna 2 all the more exciting when it came: a streamline carbon and Kevlar slab rolling smoothly and silently onto Wenceslas Square. It hugged the road like a grounded stealth bomber or a bug with folded-back wings.

"Solar Power!"

Solar car Nuna 2, photo: CTKSolar car Nuna 2, photo: CTK The pilot popped back the bubble top and the first thing he told us was how he had found conditions on this rainiest of days:

"Uh, I just followed the yellow car, the biggest problem is not able to see much in the rain."

Now you're in Prague, how do you feel?

"Well, I had hoped it would be sunny."

The weather is sure to pick up over the hundreds of kilometres that remain on the Nuna 2's European tour. The team and their car will now move to Germany and six other countries before arriving in Portugal on the target date of June 11th. For more information on the project visit www.nuna2.com.

03-06-2004

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