World Land Speed Record for Solar Powered Car

An Australian Solar Powered Car, Sunswift IV, or “IVy”, designed, built and driven solely by University of New South Wales students, has broken the land speed record for the world’s fastest solar powered vehicle at a speed of 88km/h on a cloudy day!

The record-smashing run took place on the 7th of January at HMAS Albatross navy base airstrip in Nowra. The previous record was set by UNSW as well in 2008, but in a different car. IVy achieved the record speed on an approximately 1050W (1.05kW), body-integrated solar array.  The batteries were removed so as to allow it to compete solely on energy efficiency grounds – i.e. not on the size of its batteries. This means that Sunswift IV, with ~25% less power than the previous record holder, went 13% faster.

A spokesperson from the team said that, “the maximum power [they] ever saw from the solar array was 1340 W and the clouds never stayed away for long enough to complete any faster runs.” The top speed of the car is approximately 115km/h, suggesting that given more favourable weather conditions the new record would have been set even higher!

The car combines a sleek aerodynamic design, super-efficient power electronics and state of the art controls and programming, all designed by students. For the record attempt, however, they did enlist the assistance of two non-academic professionals– professional racing drivers Barton Mawer of Mawer Engineering and Craig Davis of Tesla Europe–who steered the solar vehicle to its space in the Guinness Book of World Records!

See the team in action!

Written by Prateek Chourdia

MEngSc – Photovoltaics and Solar Energy, UNSW

Solar Energy Analyst

Solar Choice

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