An experimental solar-powered electric car built by university students has completed 1000km on a single battery charge, setting a new world record.
A small team of Australian university students has built an experimental solar-powered four-seat electric car which has covered 1000km without recharging.
The car, called Sunswift 7, completed a record run at the Australian Automotive Research Centre test track near Geelong in Victoria at a claimed average speed of 84.17km/h with an unofficial drive time of 11 hours, 53 minutes and 32 seconds.
The Sunswift team from the University of NSW is now claiming a world record – none currently exists for the distance – and is waiting for official confirmation from Guinness World Records.
The Sunswift 7 is the latest in a series of solar-powered cars created by engineering students at UNSW and was developed to challenge for victory in the World Solar Challenge race from Darwin to Adelaide in 2023.
Its predecessor, Sunswift 6, was runner-up in the World Solar Challenge in 2019.
Five of the students shared the driving, although swim champion Ian Thorpe and V8 Supercars racer Chaz Mostert both volunteered to take the wheel.
Although Sunswift 7 is designed to take its power from the sun, through 4.6 square metres of solar panels incorporated into its bodywork, its onboard battery was charged externally for the record attempt.
The run was not trouble-free as Sunswift 7 was forced to stop twice, once to replace a punctured left-rear tyre and once to solve a software glitch that halted the car just after the halfway point of the run.
The car was only allowed to be stationary for 15 minutes at any one time and the technical problem was overcome in 14 minutes 52 seconds.
Sunswift 7 has a carbon-fibre monocoque chassis and carbon-fibre body, with a 38kWh battery, twin hub-mounted electric motors powering the rear wheels, and a claimed top speed just over 140km/h. It was driven at about 95km/h through the record attempt.
It is not certified for road use, missing essentials including airbags and other safety systems, as well as air-conditioning.
“In 2014 we established a record for 500 kilometres with Sunswift 5 and now we’ve taken it to the next level. We are proving what is possible with the technology today,” the team principal of Sunswift Racing, Professor Richard Hopkins, told Drive.
“It operates like a regular electric vehicle so you can plug it in, or use the solar panels to charge the battery. It’s not an S-Class Mercedes but it can comfortably seat four people.”
“When the car is running, the motors get energy from the solar panels and the battery. When the car is stationary, the solar panels will charge the battery.”
Professor Hopkins said the car was developed for “ultimate efficiency” in everything from its tyres and ceramic wheel bearings to a slippery five-metre-long body with a drag co-efficient of just 0.09, compared to the production Mercedes-Benz EQS at 0.20.
Its solar array was enough to contribute about 2.5kWh during the record run.
The majority of the car was built from scratch by the students, although Professor Hopkins said there are many technical partners who supply parts and expertise.
“The car is not designed for performance, it’s absolutely about efficiency. Our car does not get from 0-100km/h like a Tesla,” said Professor Hopkins.