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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

This week, facts about...the solar car SunRayce. This year's race started last week in Washington, D.C. and ends this week in Orlando. [The almanac concludes with a SunRayce-inspired song.]


CURWOOD: At the summer solstice, 40 collegiate teams gathered in Washington, DC, for the start of SunRayce '99, the largest North American solar car race. For 9 days they headed south to the finish line in Orlando, balancing the need for speed with battery strength. The vehicles can now reach speeds of up to 90 miles per hour under peak sun and road conditions, but racers are advised not to exceed posted speed limits. The first SunRayce was held in 1990. Since then, there have been many improvements in photovoltaic technology. But the rules of SunRayce emphasize vehicle design over state-of-the-art materials. Only commercially available solar cells and lead-acid batteries may be used. There are no such restrictions at the more glamorous World Solar Challenge, to be held this October in Australia, where corporate teams will enter multi-million-dollar designs. Less than 20 years after the first solar car was built, there are not only several major solar car races held throughout the world, but solar glider and solar bike races. as well. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac. Now a word from Dave Boyt of Neosho, Missouri.

BOYT: (Playing guitar) About this time in 1997, I was an observer for the SunRayce. Now, some of the cars are faster than others, and when you're following a solar car across western Kansas at 35 miles an hour, you have time to do things like write a song about following a solar car going across western Kansas at 35 miles an hour. So I did. (Sings) "The cars roll out of impound at the first light of the day, testing their telemetry and tilting their arrays. Toppin' off the batteries with the early mornin' sun, makin' preparations for another long day's run. So listen to the whirrin' and the clickin' of the gears. Hear the wind a whisperin' as it whistles past your ears. Feel the gentle push of an engine powered by a nearby star, rollin' down the highway in a solar-powered car..."

CURWOOD: Dave Boyt of Neosho, Missouri, sent us that recording. He and Melinda Moellering wrote the words, sung to the tune of Wabash Cannonball.



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