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UNSW Smashes Record for Solar-Powered Trip from Perth to Sydney

The Sunswift III in Sydney traffic.

The University Of New South Wales Solar Racing Team’s (UNSW) solar car Jaycar Sunswift III broke the world record for the fastest solar powered road trip from Perth to Sydney by three days.

The team, which includes 11 students, the solar car and three support vehicles, left Perth’s Scarborough Beach at 8am on Wednesday 10 January. For 5.5 days they traveled about 700 km (435 miles) per day, averaging speeds of between 70 and 80 kph (44 to 50 mph).

When the original record was set 25 years ago, the trip took 20 days. UNSW attributed the improvement to 10 years of research and development along with advances in solar technology, aerodynamic design and materials. The current solar array of UNSW Sunswift III produces a peak power output of about 1,800 watts. Four different solar arrays were built for the prior solar car UNSW Sunswift II. The maximum power output of these arrays ranged from 1,000 to 1,500 watts.

The car uses a 3 phase, 40 pole DC brushless motor built by the team and developed by the CSIRO. The motor is built into one of the rear wheels of the car, eliminating any losses from having chains, etc. to drive the wheel. It has an efficiency of about 98%. The motor is also capable of regenerative braking.

The car uses a 6kWh lithium-polymer battery pack to store energy for when higher current is required by the motor. This is needed when it is cloudy or when the car is going uphill, and it is also used to even out the speed during the day. The battery pack stores enough energy to allow the car to travel about 500 km (310 miles) at 80 kph or 300 km (186 miles) at 100 kph (62 mph). The range depends on the speed of the car and the terrain.

We have demonstrated with Jaycar Sunswift III that the future of transport is not with 100-year-old technology, but rather with innovative thought, light materials, efficient electric drive and solar power.

—Yael Augarten, Project Leader of the UNSW Solar Racing Team

In its press release announcing the record, the UNSW team noted that Australia’s top selling car, the Holden Commodore, is now less fuel efficient than the Model T Ford from the turn of last century.

Trends such as this only worsen the climate change problem evidently failing to be addressed by manufacturers, consumers and government alike.

—UNSW Solar Racing Team


  • The University Of New South Wales Solar Racing Team website



Congratulations! They used a 40 pole motor with no chains, sprockets nor gears..good thinking.


This uses ~6000wh/186=32wh/mile@62mph, while something like the Quest velomobile probably uses ~18wh/mile@62mph and the White Hawk lowracer uses ~10wh/mile@62mph. I guess having all that flat surface for solar panels isn't good for aero...


A very good competition to bring out the best in all competitors.

How about a Seattle to San Diego sun race ?


"How about a Seattle to San Diego sun race?"

They would never get out of Seattle.


All new cars should offer optional photovoltaic surfaces. ICE cars could use the electricity to power existing electric loads. (They would not have to be reengineered for electric propulsion.)

Shoppers could decide whether or not they want to spend extra for PV surfaces based on how much they expect their car to be exposed to sunlight (will it be garaged, etc.?) and how much concern they have for the environment.

We should be researching and developing cost-effective and resource-effective PV solutions for transportation instead of hydrogen fuel cells.

Where's that PV paint I've been dreaming about?


Hi KJD and UKBB,

A Reno to Tuscan (by way of Phoenix) probably makes more sense. Get out on the backside of those mountains.


UKBB >"They would never get out of Seattle."

Oh come on, think August !

"Envy is thin because it bites but never eats." - Spanish proverb


I have always loved the idea of a solar car. In the back of my mind, however, I'm troubled that the public is going to look at these wierd looking, totally impractical vehicles and say: "Hmph. Amusing, but all that Alternative Energy nonsense is totally impractical." What I'd like to see now is a solar car that actually looked and worked like a car that real people could drive. One that you could sit upright in, with lots of cupholders. Of course, instead of 32 wh/m, a real car uses what, 250 wh/m? The really interesting engineering challenge would be to see how low you could get the energy requirement of a practical car while simultaneously pushing the power output of the cells higher. At some point you would wind up with a BEV that you would not have to plug in very often. Of course it would probably be more practical to put the solar cells on the roof of your house, in which case they would not need to be very efficient, rather than covering the car with expensive high efficiency cells.


If you want conventional looking electric cars take a look at these 3.

All you have to do is put solar panels on the garage and you have a solar powered car.


"What I'd like to see now is a solar car that actually looked and worked like a car that real people could drive."

You mean like this?


George, I agree with your comment, "Of course it would probably be more practical to put the solar cells on the roof of your house . . ."

Yes, there are many advantages to having PV solar on the roof of your house rather than on your car. Unfortunately, like many city dwellers, I can't put solar on the roof of my home. I live in a high-rise condo building.

But my car sits out in the sun.

For PV solar power to make a significant contribution, we're going to have to deploy a lot of it. Go ahead and put it on as many buildings as possible, but let's also find ways to put it on our cars and trucks.

Building-integrated PV solar is one of the most promising solutions to our energy problem. With the right technology, vehicle-integrated PV solar could be too.


I don't understand how on the roof of my house is better than on the car. I work all day, so my car would be at my work and not recharging at home. Is there something I'm missing?




While you are at work during the day, the solar panels on your house are providing power to the grid in, excess of what your house is using while you are not there. If you are at work using a charging station, you are paying for the energy with your panels at home, without having to carry them around with you.


PV integrated into the vehical has the advantage that you dont have to pay for the inverter, because its DC allready, and theres no futzing around with the plug at the office or wherever.

If solar panels get cheaper I expect vehical integrated PV to be a large scale application of PV.

shaun mann

reasons why solar panels on cars are pretty silly:

1) tiny range added. how often do you leave your car in the full sun? solar cell efficiency plummets with even a small amount of partial shade.

2) are you willing to pay and extra $3-5k (on top of the other electric component upgrade costs) for 10-15 free miles per day?

3) aesthetics. sure, one car w/ solar panels would look hot, but what if more than say 2% of vehicles had them? they'd start to look pretty ugly. people would opt out just so they could choose the color of their car.

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