Gliding effortlessly into Sydney’s McMahons Point a full two days ahead of schedule, a group of students from UNSW have set a new record for the most efficient vehicle after a 4,100km journey in a solar racing car across the country in just six days.
Travelling in the 6th generation solar car named “Violet” – that has been designed to not only charge itself via flexible rooftop solar panels but also consume the least amount of energy possible – the Sunswift team who hail from a diverse range of disciplines achieved their goal not only without a hitch – they also exceeded expectations.
In order to break the previous Guinness World Record, the 14 students needed to ensure Violet could drive with a maximum energy consumption of 5.5kWh/100km.
In fact, Violet went above and beyond, clocking 600km day at an efficiency of 3.25kWh/100km – 17 times less than the average Australian car, and for the miniscule cost of $50 for the entire trip.
“I’m so excited we made it,” said Courtney Morris, 20, a mechanical engineering student said to UNSW News.
“It’s always so nerve-wracking to see the car that you built with your own hands on the road; I’m always afraid that something could change at any moment, but it all went pretty well and the team dynamic was great.”
Violet, who has been upgraded from her predecessor with modern trimmings such as air conditioning, reversing cameras and parking sensors, was met at the finish line by UNSW Dean of Engineering Professor Mark Hoffman.
“These students have pushed the boundaries of modern engineering and proven that solar powered cars are likely to be a big part of Australia’s motoring future,” he told UNSW News.
Next steps for the Sunswift team, after heading home for some R&R over the holidays, will be to start preparing for the biennial 3,000km Bridgestone World Solar Challenge set to run from Darwin to Adelaide in 2019.
With an established track record for placing well in the gruelling race which attracts competitors from all over the world, they are keen to make a comeback since a rear suspension failure caused them to pull out of the race in 2017.
For now, they will no doubt ride on the high of driving into Sydney after crossing the entire country – a moment that 25-year-old computer science honours student Hayden Smith, said was a high point of the trip.
“That’s when it finally clicked that we had crossed the country in just six days – that’s 4100km. In a car built by students,” he said to UNSW News.
“Violet is lively on the road a lot, it’s not a production car and you have to kind of handle it like a horse in order to manage it on public roads. But we did it.”
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.