Solar cars roll across Earth's driest desert

The vehicles had to cost less than $7,000, requiring ingenuity from their creators, not wealth.

SANTIAGO, Chile — The second annual Solar Challenge has begun in Chile's Atacama desert, where 15 solar-powered cars rolled out of an old salt mine Thursday.

The solar-powered prototypes will travel more than 800 miles through the world's driest desert in the four-day, multinational race.

There are two categories: cars powered only by solar energy, and three-wheeled models that get a little help from pedals pushed by the drivers themselves.

The cars had to be built for less than $7,000, forcing their makers to be creative more than wealthy. Most of the teams represent university engineering departments.

The big finish comes Monday, and the winners get prizes of $30,000 in the solar category and $9,000 in the hybrid category.

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