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Students Build a Record-Breaking Solar Electric Car

sunswiftBack in May, we introduced you to the idea of solar roads that could power your electric car and even combat climate change. Well, now there’s a new project in the world of solar powered vehicles and this one is breaking records already!

Sunswift, a team of engineering students from the University of New South Wales in Australia, has designed and built a car that holds the Guinness World Record for fastest solar-powered vehicle. They achieved that record back in 2011 with their first model traveling at a top speed of 88 km/h (55 mph). And now, the team is back with a new vehicle—eVe—which is on its way to breaking a 20-year-old electric vehicle record for the highest average speed over a 500 km (310 mi) distance!

When building an electric car, there are a lot of trade-offs to consider and speed vs. distance is one of them. The Sunswift team wanted to create a practical solar electric car that can drive at sustained highway speeds while still providing a respectable range. Check out this video of Sunswift’s solar car in action!

That’s where the eVe comes in: a two-door, two passenger car that’s more conventional than the “spaceship” designs of the past. It’s powered by a Li-ion battery pack capable of driving a pair of custom designed motors with a staggering 97% efficiency. A solar panel array on the hood, roof, and back end provide up to 800 Watts of power on a sunny day. Regenerative braking also replenishes the batteries, recovering up to 80% of the braking energy.

eVe is capable of traveling 140 km/h (87 mph) and has a range is 800 km (500 mi) using the battery pack supplemented by the solar panels. Running on battery power alone, eVe can reach 500 km (310 mi)—this is the record that Sunswift is looking to break. And the coolest news is this—when driving at highway speeds, eVe uses the equivalent power of a four-slice kitchen toaster!

Now, winning races and breaking records are nice, but Sunswift has a loftier goal: to revolutionize the car industry. Their team is made up students in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, photovoltaic engineering, business, and economics. While they may have a very diverse background, they all share the same attributes: ambition, work ethic, vision, and a desire to make the world a better place.

Its students like these who will “drive” our future. We want to wish Team Sunswift good luck in their attempt to break a world record and good luck in their future as innovators of the auto industry. Who knows? Maybe someday down the line you, too, will be driving the latest eVe car off into the sunset!

Photo credit: Sunswift/University of New South Wales via Engineering.com

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