UNSW solar car sets new speed record

The ‘Sunswift’ solar car team, comprised of engineering students from the University of NSW (UNSW), have set a new record for the fastest electric vehicle (EV) over a distance of 500km with a single battery charge.

The car, affectionately named ‘eVe’, maintained an average speed above 100 km/hour over the 500km trial, obliterating the previous record average speed of 73km/hour. In addition to the record, the EV reached a top speed of 132km/hour during a practice run.

The record attempt was held at the Australian Automotive Research Centre in Victoria and was regulated by the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport.

Sunswift ‘eVe’ is fitted with an 800W high-efficiency solar array, with cells integrated into the roof and hood of the carbon fibre exterior. The solar panels are able to charge the integrated 60kg battery, which can provide a range of 800km on a single charge and can also be re-fuelled using a wall outlet.

The new ‘eVe’ design is in stark contrast to the previous iteration of the Sunsift EV, ‘IVy’, and competed in the ‘Cruiser Class’ for the 2013 World Solar Challenge. Although it may look like a high‑tech racing car, the Sunswift ‘eVe’ is designed to target everyday use. It is fitted with two seats and removes any feelings of ‘range-anxiety’ with an 800km range for a full charge. The Sunswift team is aiming to meet Australian road registration requirements within the next year, which would make it the first street-legal solar vehicle.

Sunswift IVy

The Sunswift ‘IVy’ was designed with performance in mind. Image credit: UNSW

Electric vehicles are very steadily gaining popularity worldwide, as evidenced by the recent high‑profile success of Tesla Motors and their ‘Model S’. However, the integration of solar panels into road-worthy vehicles has not received the same amount of support thus far, with criticism centred on the minimal additional road miles provided (if at all) by the integrated solar panel not justifying the effort.

However, ‘eVe’ is clearly different and may enlighten detractors of what is possible with EV design. It has the range, performance and stand-alone capabilities that consumer’s desire. The success of the Sunswift ‘eVe’ highlights a lesson we have also learnt from rooftop PV — the combination of energy-efficient design with renewable solar PV energy is a big part of the solution for a sustainable future.

Top Image Credit: Sunswift

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John Rodriguez