Breaking a record that stood for 26 years, a team of University of New South Wales engineering students have gained FIA recognition for their 500 kilometer (310 mile) drive at an average speed of 106.966 kilometers per hour (66.32 mph) in their solar-powered Sunswift automobile.
The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), world motorsport’s governing body, ratified the record for the run set by the team in July. The old record was 73 km/hr. (45.26 mph), making the new record a decisive advancement in electric vehicle technology.
The new record is particularly impressive because it’s set by students, more than 100 of whom contributed to the project over the last two years. Students are now working on their fifth car, eVe, to be built and raced since the team was founded in 1996. The University’s press release noted, “’It’s not often you can confidently say you made history before you even graduated,’ Sunswift’s project director and third-year engineering student Hayden Smith said.”
The Sunswift web site lists the following specifications for the car:
- Exterior: TeXtreme Carbon fibre constructed by Core Builders.
- Solar Panels: C60 Sunpower silicon solar cells. High efficiency (22.7%) and lightweight.
- Encapsulation: Solbian high performance encapsulation (polymer protection for the solar cells).
- Motor: 2 Maran in-hub motors developed by the CSIRO. Low power high efficiency by electric car standards.
- Battery: Panasonic NCR 18650 A and B.
- Suspension: Front Bilstein Ohlins. Rear TTX25 spring damper.
- Wheels: Front: GH Craft carbon front wheels. Rear: 7075 Aluminum wheels.
- Tires: Michelin Radial X tires specifically designed for solar cars.
Note that none of this is extreme technology. University and student budgets probably contributed to the “off-the-shelf” nature of the package, generously supplemented by sponsors.
Capable of 140 km/hr. (86.8 mph) and 800 kilometer (496 miles) range, the Sunswift eVe two-seater is now being tailored for on-road driving, showing that it and a four-seat development can be practical road vehicles. The team extols the virtues of having solar power and batteries as backup. eVe can drive at night on battery power, or extend its range beyond anxiety because of its solar cells. It will be fascinating to see if this practicality can find its way into production someday soon.