With a name like Sunswift, optimism must abound. So let's start with the fact that the team behind it has built a great looking solar-powered car. And Australia has plenty of road and more than enough sun, the pieces are coming together.

Australia's University of New South Wales first put together its Sunswift team of vehicle builders in 1995 and students and other volunteers have been churning through the program ever since. The team, which continues to crowdfund in an effort to raise cash for more research, set a land-speed record in 2011 for a solar-powered vehicle, which was 55 miles per hour at the time. That may not please Sammy Hagar but we're impressed.

This week, Sunswift set out to beat a 20-year-old long-distance speed record for the fastest average speed by an electric vehicle over a 500-kilometer (311-mile) stretch. The previous record was 73 kilometers an hour (45 miles per hour) but under. This week, on a track outside Geelong, Victoria, the Sunswift managed to go an average of 100 kph (62 mph) for the entire 311 miles. Once the team gets the numbers approved by the FIA, they can claim a new world record.

The car has carbon-fiber components to help keep weight down to just 660 pounds and is covered in photovoltaic cells that deliver as many as 800 watts of power under cloudless skies. Under normal conditions, that power could complement the vehicle's lithium-ion battery, but the panels were switched off for the world-record attempt. This was a test of the efficiency and the power in the battery, and it appears to have been a success. Find out more on the record-breaking attempt in Sunswift's two-minute video below.

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Students successful in electric car world record attempt
23 July 2014

A team of UNSW students has broken a 26-year-old world speed record*, potentially establishing their Sunswift car as the fastest electric vehicle over a distance of 500 kilometres, on a single battery charge.

The world record was broken this afternoon by the team at a racetrack in Geelong, Victoria.

The car achieved an average speed of more than 100 km/h during the attempt, bettering the previous world record of 73km/h.

However, no definitive numbers can be issued until the record is officially approved by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), world motorsport's governing body.

The last time an FIA world record was set in Australia was in April 1984 in a production based petrol engine sedan. Further to this the most recent Australian record was set in March 1994 by Rosco McGlashan in a jet powered vehicle, according to the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport, who supervised the attempt.

One of the professional drivers involved in the world record attempt, Garth Walden, said: "As a racing driver you always want to be on the podium and it's not everyday you get to break a world record. I really enjoyed hanging out with the team and being part of history." "This record was about establishing a whole new level of single-charge travel for high-speed electric vehicles, which we hope will revolutionise the electric car industry," said jubilant project director and third-year engineering student Hayden Smith.

The students are from UNSW's Sunswift, Australia's top solar car racing team. Their vehicle eVe is the fifth to be built and raced since the team was founded in 1996.

Earlier versions of the Sunswift car have been used to set a world record for the fastest solar powered road trip from Perth to Sydney, and a Guinness World Record for the fastest solar car.

The team hopes the car's performance today proves it is ready for day-to-day practical use.

"Five hundred kilometres is pretty much as far as a normal person would want to drive in a single day," Smith said. "It's another demonstration that one day you could be driving our car."

No secret has been made of Sunswift's long-term goals for the car. They expect it to meet Australian road registration requirements within as little as one year, and have previously said its zero-emission solar and battery storage systems make it "a symbol for a new era of sustainable driving".

The current car uses solar panels on the roof and hood to charge a 60kg battery. However, the panels were switched off during today's world-record attempt, leaving the car to run solely on the battery charge.

The vehicle was put to the test on a 4.2 kilometre circular track at the Australian Automotive Research Centre, located about 50 kilometres outside Geelong, Victoria.

Almost a quarter of the Sunswift team – which comprises 60 undergraduate students – made the trip to Victoria to support the world-record attempt.

Students are drawn from across all engineering disciplines. The team has also enlisted industrial designers from UNSW Built Environment to rework the car's interiors in preparation for the application for road-legal status.

* Subject to FIA homologation (approval).


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  • 39 Comments
      protomech
      • 4 Months Ago
      60 kg battery is quite small - great for a solar racer, not great for a range test. The densest production battery packs are around 160 Wh/kg (BRD), suppose Sunswift has 200 Wh/kg at the pack level. That's only 12 kWh, which would put their consumption at around 26 Wh/mile at an average of 60 mph (1.6 kW) .. about 10% that of a typical small EV like a Nissan LEAF, and around 25% that of a typical small motorcycle like the Zero.
      Ben Crockett
      • 4 Months Ago
      This a great achievement which I am proud to see as a fellow Australian. Now if only the Australian Government would get behind: 1/ Manufacturing vehicles in Australia again - instead of letting the sector shut down and us losing our ability to manufacturer world quality passenger vehicles; 2/ Embrace solar and renewables - instead of looking to remove all incentives and support; 3/ Embrace the use and incentives for EVs - of which there are currently none.
        DarylMc
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Ben Crockett
        Politicians here are severely screwed up with corruption. Yes the thing which they are so quick to criticize other countries for. Not even the mining magnates who have some money see a value in manufacturing and the prosperity of the people here. The rot definitely starts at the top. GM, Ford and Toyota are foreign companies and have proven to show no interest beyond making a buck at the expense of this country. That's not surprising. Mitsubishi and Nissan have pulled out many years ago. They are foreign companies after all. Ask yourself why the motor vehicles in this country run on gasoline while we export multiples of energy units of coal, LPG and CNG. What Australia really needs is to ditch the foreign manufacturers, use alternate fuels and create some energy independence.
          DarylMc
          • 4 Months Ago
          @DarylMc
          Hi Marco Polo I think I hinted that it is not surprising that foreign companies have an expectation to make a profit. I certainly didn't say otherwise. It was probably a harsh criticism to call the government corrupt but I don't see any other appraisal of the direction they are taking this country and I'm not just talking about the current one. They just cannot let all manufacturing leave this country and think that it is for the benefit of the people who live here. If they don't have any control over that then I don't know who does. I also think it is a bit hard to blame consumers when the only manufacturers we had here were foreign companies and they were quite simply not manufacturing the vehicles which people want to buy. It's a shame LPG isn't more widely used here and to be honest there just has not been the availability of many vehicles which use it. LPG hasn't been a great option for many people and hence the poor uptake. I like the technology Ford implemented in the liquid LPG injected Falcon but that is just one choice of many when it comes to vehicles. That vehicle is probably fairly cost effective for its size but as far as consuming resources goes 15-20l/100km of LPG is not really a responsible use of energy. It takes more than just the few years that a government is in power to change the fuel source of a nation. The government should certainly be held to account and the monies invested to keep foreign companies manufacturing here which would have been better spent to develop local alternatives including people like Ross Blade. You would have to blind not to see that even our university system here is more about making foreign trade dollars more than educating the citizens. I think we are a bit past being able to blame trade unions since they are pretty well disappeared from this country. Hardly anyone works for award wages trade union or not and this is certainly something which governments could address. But they are not. And manufacturing has all but disappeared from this country.
          Marco Polo
          • 4 Months Ago
          @DarylMc
          @ DarylMc The primary objective of any business is to make money. GM, Ford and Toyota, have no obligation to lose money in Australia. I don't understand why you think that mining companies, (and owners) , should become manufacturers, when manufacturers can't remain profitable ? Australia is lucky to be one of the few nations that produces a surplus of energy, far beyond our domestic needs. We are " energy independent " . The politicians are not at fault for a lack of Australian products ! It's the fault of Australian consumers who prefer to buy imported goods. It's also the fault of militant union leaders, demanding unrealistic benefits and conditions for workers, thereby making Australian business uncompetitive, so those workers can spend those benefits, buying imported goods from their employers foreign competitors ! The government doesn't make you buy an imported car instead of a locally made, LPG vehicle. In fact government(s) (of all political persuasions), created substantial LPG incentives. The oil companies responded by investing in the worlds largest LPG refuelling network. GM, and Ford created excellent engines that ran on economical, low taxed, Australian LPG. But the great Australian consumer, still preferred to buy imported gasoline vehicles ! It's time to stop blaming others, be they politicians or business leaders, and accept responsibility for a situation that we, as Australian consumers, created ourselves.
          DarylMc
          • 4 Months Ago
          @DarylMc
          I stand by my claim that the rot starts at the top.
        Paul Van Gaans
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Ben Crockett
        We owned a LEAF and now drive a Mitsubishi PHEV in Australia all completely powered by solar panels. Just because the current Government is fighting renewables and EV adoption, doesn't mean we can't do it anyway ;) www.aussieleaf.tumblr.com
          Marco Polo
          • 4 Months Ago
          @Paul Van Gaans
          @ Paul Van Gaans The current Australian government isn't fighting renewable energy, or EV adoption. Like all Australian governments, it has a strong preference for LPG. The previous government also offered no incentives for EV's. But, unlike it's predecessor, hopefully this government will not waste vast sums of taxpayer money into mad schemes like " Better Place ", and subsiding the importation of cheap, and inferior solar panels from the PRC, thereby effectively destroying the existing high quality Australian Solar manufacturing industry. It's interesting to note that only two of the previous Labour-Green government members of Parliament drove vehicles with EV technology, while 11 of the conservative opposition selected vehicles with hybrid technology. The attitude of the previous government could be summed-up in the words of the previous Minister for Innovation and Technology, Labour's Senator Kim Carr, " these electric car thingy's will never take off here ! " . In contrast, while in opposition, the current conservative Minister for the environment, Greg Hunt, selected a locally built hybrid Toyota Camry. Congratulation on buying a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. A little underpowered on hills and off-road, and the all electric range is only 25-30 miles, ( about half the EV range of the Holden Volt ) but still a pretty good vehicle for it's class. Australians are not that concerned about the cost of gasoline, which is still relatively cheap. In 2013, 1.2 million new cars were sold. Only 300 of those were EV's, even hybrid sales are in decline. Prof Chris Riedy of the Australian Institute for Sustainable Futures, believes the majority of consumers are ; " experiencing a sense of sustainability fatigue. We've been talking about these issues for years and people are just switching off. The public is weary of all the hype, and extravagant claims. They are also tired of being lectured to, a forced to pay for technologies they see as being driven more by ideology, than any practical benefit ''. If Prof Reidy is correct, this is a very worrying development, that I have long feared, might occur. Taxpayers get sick of funding projects that never seem to deliver any real benefits, especially in tough economic times.
          Ben Crockett
          • 4 Months Ago
          @Paul Van Gaans
          @ Paul Van Gaans +1 Great to hear and agree. I also own the Mitsubshi Outlander PHEV in Aspire model Titanium in colour. I have also ordered a 9.5kWh PV system to be installed on my house also. I had long considered a Nissan Leaf and love the drive of it as a commuter but the series 1 onboard 3.3 kW charger was a no go for me on recharge times and rear seat for weekends for the little one was only a little bigger than the hatch it was to replace. The PHEV was a good vehicle for all my needs - the battery could be bigger but I understand this will come in time as future battery density increases. What do you think of your PHEV?
          DarylMc
          • 4 Months Ago
          @Paul Van Gaans
          Where do I post that my Sino Silicon panels have failed in less than 12 months and causing my inverter to refuse to start. I'm sure it's not the end of the world but I'm thinking damn you Chinese manufacturers.
      Warren
      • 4 Months Ago
      If you don't like hypercars, how about a motorcycle? Look at the range numbers for the Zero S, http://www.zeromotorcycles.com/zero-s/specs.php then double them with a fairing. https://www.facebook.com/lifeoffthegrid/photos/pb.164748896954256.-2207520000.1406236668./629277423834732/?type=1&theater
      Marco Polo
      • 4 Months Ago
      Congratulations to the young engineers who worked so hard building this successful project. Its a real achievement, and the lessons learned must be very valuable in their future careers. Well done guys !
        DarylMc
        • 16 Hours Ago
        @Marco Polo
        Hi Marco Polo I agree and well said. There has been much good work for decades here on the solar racers. I think the payoff may be in battery powered vehicles even more so that the solar racers.
      BipDBo
      • 4 Months Ago
      My first born daughter will be 16 in a few years. I'd like to get her a car like this. Self imposed curfew.
        GoodCheer
        • 4 Months Ago
        @BipDBo
        The low price, low speed, good visibility, and low range of the i-MiEV make it seem like a really compelling car for new drivers. If you have the tax exposure, it's only $15.5k. Everything will have changed by the time my daughter can drive, but I'd consider something like this.
          Marco Polo
          • 4 Months Ago
          @GoodCheer
          @ GoodCheer, If you actually saw the vehicle in reality, you might change your mind ! In order to reduce the weight to 350 kg, the vehicle was stripped of everything, including all safety equipment. The vehicle a real challenge to drive, and only for the young and very dedicated. It would be impossible to road register as a real road worthy vehicle. @ BipDBO, The unaccompanied driving age in Australia is 18. However, by 18 my daughter was quite an accomplished driver, and was pleased with receiving a Prius as a first car. I figured that it's not the back seat of her car that I'm worried about :) This is her first year of University, and I'm about to upgrade her car to a Lexus CT 200 h, but she really me to give her my my Volt when its due for replacement, at the end of this year. Uni students tend to have lot's of friends, (all needing a ride) and like her late mother, my daughter is a passionate advocate for environmentally friendly technology. My concern with the Elio, and similar vehicles, is the lack of maximum road safety equipment.
          GoodCheer
          • 16 Hours Ago
          @GoodCheer
          @Marco Polo "It would be impossible to road register as a real road worthy vehicle." Not where I live, here they're just another car. Also, I have test driven one, and thought it was perfectly fine. Not Leaf nice, but not totally stripped. Of course it was the North American versions, which I believe got some redesign effort.
          DarylMc
          • 16 Hours Ago
          @GoodCheer
          Hi Marco Polo Learners start at 16 years old in QLD. Provisional licence at 17 with some restrictions on passengers at night and power to weight of vehicles. My daughter prefers to drive cars which don't use much fuel too. Whether that's because they are economical or magically seem to always have fuel in the tank:)
          BipDBo
          • 4 Months Ago
          @GoodCheer
          But it's a Mitsubishi. My daughter doesn't know much about cars, but she has some standards. College students need range, especially so that they can drive home, so an EV is likely not good option. They may also find it very difficult getting a plug on campus. I think the ideal car for a college student is an Elio, so long as they prove to be safe enough. Very affordable, extremely good gas mileage, and can probably find a parking spot a lot easier than many cars. Also, as a dad, I like that the back seat is too small for any shenanigans. If I were to buy a new car for myself right now, I might get a post lease Volt. They're going for $18k with 35k miles. www.offleaseonly.com
          BipDBo
          • 4 Months Ago
          @GoodCheer
          But it's a Mitsubishi. My daughter doesn't know much about cars, but she has some standards. College students need range, especially so that they can drive home, so an EV is likely not good option. They may also find it very difficult getting a plug on campus. I think the ideal car for a college student is an Elio, so long as they prove to be safe enough. Very affordable, extremely good gas mileage, and can probably find a parking spot a lot easier than many cars. Also, as a dad, I like that the back seat is too small for any shenanigans. If I were to buy a new car for myself right now, I might get a post lease Volt. They're going for $18k with 35k miles. www.offleaseonly.com
          Marco Polo
          • 4 Months Ago
          @GoodCheer
          @ DarylMc Hi Daryl, yes, you're quite right, each State has different laws. Victoria, (where I live) is 18, with learner permits from 16.
        DarylMc
        • 4 Months Ago
        @BipDBo
        Surely 500km range is far too much:)
      methos1999
      • 4 Months Ago
      Ok I had to chuckle a little bit when in the video one of the kids working on the project said "it's about inspiring the younger generations"... ok as in HIS generation? Because the guy looked pretty young to me!
      Ryan
      • 4 Months Ago
      These are the cars we should be traveling in.
      LEONARD
      • 4 Months Ago
      Hi Musk get behind something the masses can afford
      Marco Polo
      • 4 Months Ago
      @ DatlMc & Ben Crockett, As a fellow Australian commenting on a international website, I think it's important to correct the impression you convey relating to the demise of the Australian car industry, Australian governance and society. Very few Australian Federal politicians are 'corrupt' , in the accepted sense of the word. Political corruption in Australia is more likely to be found at a local level. The few Federal politicians involved in misbehaviour, are usually guilty of quite petty offences,and quickly denounced to face severe penalties. The current government inherited the Australian car industry collapse, long after the decisions had been made, and is forced to deal with the repercussions, which are not of its making. Australia never really had an "Australian Car Industry". Traditionally, three US manufactures, and a number of Japanese manufacturers, built some models in Australia with varying levels of Australian input. The industry was always heavily subsidised by the taxpayer, and never profitable without government support. Over time, governments of all persuasions reduced tariffs and support ( particularly Labour-Left governments). In recent years, Australian car buyers deserted the traditional full sized six cylinder sedan and station wagon, in favour of imported SUV' s. On visiting Australia in 2004, Edsel Ford, who twenty-five years earlier was President of Ford Australia, was saddened to note how few Ford models were to be seen in the employees car park. Australian labour in the car industry, simply priced itself of the market ! Low productively, poor morale, combative highly politicised unions, government policies like carbon taxes, etc, poor sales,a relatively small market, and the High Australian dollar, all combined to persuade the major manufactures, cut their losses and leave Australian manufacturing, in favour of selling more profitable imports. Australian governments on both sides of politics, worked hard over the years, to interest Australians in LPG. The oil companies responded to government incentives, and rolled out the world's largest LPG network. GM and Ford built production LPG models, but the affluent Australian motoring public preferred to purchase luxury gasoline imports. Long before Elon Musk's Tesla Model S, the Australian pioneering engineer, Ross Blade, produced a production EV ito rival Nissan's Leaf. The Blade Electron was based on the hugely popular Hyundai Getz. Despite having very little money, and no government support, Ross Blade managed to produce sufficient numbers and quality to be awarded the difficult to obtain, licence granting his company Automotive production status. Amazingly, instead of receiving support, Ross Blade became the victim of a hate campaign from the largely leftist, Australian EV community, none of whom purchased his vehicles, and incurred the enmity of the Australian " Green-Left- Labour" federal government, who actively discouraged his progress.
        Marco Polo
        • 16 Hours Ago
        @Marco Polo
        Continued...., I bought two of Blade Electrons, and can attest to their quality and reliability. These small vehicles were an astonishingly practical achievement from a local manufacturer. Ross Blade received virtually no government support from the Labour-Green Alliance federal government, and none from the Leftist state governments. The majority of his sales were to New Zealand ! GMH Australia, had the opportunity to produce an upmarket, Ampera based, export version of the Volt with a Buick badge. The outgoing conservative had tied a $280 mil subsidy as a condition. The incoming " Labour-Green" government dropped this plan in favour of using the money to mollify a union demand for additional penalty rates. But in the end, neither government policies, nor poor product planning by the Auto-makers, killed the Australian car industry, the simple fact is that Australians would rather buy foreign imports.
        DarylMc
        • 16 Hours Ago
        @Marco Polo
        Hi Marco Polo Anyone would have to be a fool to question your motives but it doesn't stop me questioning the government's actions.
          DarylMc
          • 16 Hours Ago
          @DarylMc
          There are many reasons for the demise of manufacturing here but thankyou for reminding me that the previous and current government's actions are just one of them.
      brotherkenny4
      • 4 Months Ago
      This is very impressive, and I am sure this Dan F. approved. In fact, I'll bet these tricky buggers even consulted with the Danster.
        methos1999
        • 4 Months Ago
        @brotherkenny4
        Depends on whather DF has been taking his meds or not. If he has, then yes he might actually approve. If not, then who knows what evil conspiracy he'll concoct for why this vehicle is still far too heavy and not even close to aerodynamic for his expert opinion.
        danfred311
        • 4 Months Ago
        @brotherkenny4
        it's curious how poorly you are able to predict my judgments when they are this clear cut. I am of course not impressed since this is only marginally better than a stock Model S could do and it's a fat pig. And they did of course not consult me. Why would they. That would be crazy. They know best. Btw the trans america car which was a converted radical almost did the same as well. Had they consulted with me I could easily give them 1200km range at 100km/h. Maybe 1500. And with serious optimization in excess of 2000km. It's pretty simple logic although you can't hold logic in your heads for any length of time. the radical used lifepo batteries to get 500km range. simply exchange that battery weight for the highest density laptop cells and you have 1200km range with no intelligence at all. if the car is downright aerodynamic which a radical most certainly isn't, it could be a lot more. 2500km range might even be easy with some decent engineering of all aspects. aero being the most important. so no, this certainly doesn't impress me.
          brotherkenny4
          • 4 Months Ago
          @danfred311
          Well, I stand corrected.
          Marco Polo
          • 4 Months Ago
          @danfred311
          @ danfred311 But then you've never built anything, practical or impractical, have you ? All you do is write obdurate criticise of those who actually build real projects. These students, have a life! (and from my observation, girlfriends) maybe you could get a life also, if left you fantasies, and took part in a positive project.
        danfred311
        • 4 Months Ago
        @brotherkenny4
        although it's important to note that this is a given solar car design which means the battery operation is sort of secondary which then makes it decent engineering. the record is not impressive but because the vehicle is not designed for that record it's pretty good. the car is obviously designed to a large extent by aerodynamics. not great aero but certainly not idiotic either.
          brotherkenny4
          • 4 Months Ago
          @danfred311
          "not idiotic", I think they can take that as a compliment.
          danfred311
          • 4 Months Ago
          @danfred311
          as it was intended, Kenny :) if I'm not offended, by human standards they are doing pretty well :)
          DarylMc
          • 4 Months Ago
          @danfred311
          Maybe even a little bit more than 10kWh. Information is scarce.
          DarylMc
          • 4 Months Ago
          @danfred311
          Obviously this vehicle is designed as a solar racer first and foremost. I'm sure you are aware all those solar racers have a few kwh of batteries which are fully charged at the start of the race. They all have quite an amazing range from the battery alone. I couldn't find how much battery they used for this effort but I did see a claim on their website of 50 cents worth of electricity which would be 2kwh at the standard rate here. I find that hard to believe but it would be less than 10kwh for sure. This vehicle probably cost as much to make as a Model S which is quite a credit to Tesla. I'm sure Tesla could easily snatch that record from them too. But consuming 20 times more energy.
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