The solar-powered vehicles that participated in the Atacama Solar Challenge successfully crossed 1,060 kilometers (620 miles) of northern Chile's Atacama Desert and organizers are already thinking about a second such race next year.

This assertion was made to reporters by Leandro Valencia, the general coordinator of the event, which was participated in by 11 vehicles from Chile, Argentina, Ecuador and Puerto Rico.

The competition, which consisted of three phases, was divided into two categories: Atacama Solar Challenge, for automobiles; and Solar Route, for low-cost hybrid three-wheeled vehicles equipped with pedals and photovoltaic panels.

The race "exceeded all expectations," said Valencia, who expressed his hope that the competition will become a classic that will attract more and more participants.

The contest was organized by the University of Chile, the Federico Santa Maria Technical University, the La Ruta Solar Corp. and the Institute of Electric and Electronic Engineers.

The winner was the vehicle known as Intikallpa ("solar energy" in the indigenous Quechua language).

The vehicle, which was driven by the Antakari team comprised of technical experts from the Los Pelambres copper mine and students with the Universidad de La Serena, covered the 1,060 km of the race at an average speed of 75 kph (46.5 mph).

The winner of the Atacama Solar Challenge category received a prize of 15 million pesos ($30,000) after an effort that "was worth it," according to Jaime Muñoz, who alternated with Alejandra Oyarzo at the wheel of Intikallpa.

In the hybrid category, the winner was Chile's Condor 1, operated by the Los Andes Solar Team and constructed by experts with the Mining Part company. It made the journey at an average speed of 60 kph (37.2 mph), "thanks to its aluminum aerodynamic wings," according to team member Fernando Rodriguez.

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