Topspeed Hall of Fame: World's Fastest Solar-Powered Vehicle

By most engine-powered automotive standards, a car than can run 88.8 km/h (55.2 mph) is best described as a snail trapped in an enormous steel chassis. That’s how far technology has come in today’s world with supercars capable of running over 250 mph on a good day.

But if you take away a car’s engine - the heart and soul of any vehicle – then you’re pretty much stuck with a car that can only go as fast as how hard you push it. That is, unless you rely on another understated energy source, one that, ironically, is the most powerful form of energy in the universe: the sun.

Over the past few years, numerous people have built solar-powered cars with the intention of setting the land-speed record for such a vehicle. Entering the year, the world record for the fastest solar-powered car belonged to the General Motors Sunraycer, a car that clocked in a top speed of 79 km/h while being powered by silicon solar cells back in 1988.

Two weeks into 2011, a team from the University of New South Wales in Australia broke the 22-year old record with the Sunswift Ivy.

Continued after the jump.

Designed by a team of students from the Engineering department of the University of New South Wales, the Sunswift Ivy weighed only a tenth of what an average car would weigh and came with a 98% efficient Brushless CSIRO 3-phase DC motor and an array of 400 silicon cells. To achieve the team’s target speed of 85 km/h, they would only need to generate 1,300 watts of solar generated power. In layman’s parlance, that’s about the same amount of energy as a lot of counter microwaves being sold in department stores have.

When the car was ran at the HMAS Albatross navy base airstrip in Nowra, Australia, the Sunswift Ivy clocked in a top speed of 88.8 km/h (55.2 mph), a little under nine km/h faster than the previous record.

Piloting the Sunswift Ivy during its Guiness-certified record-setting run included Barton Mawer and Craig Davis, both of whom are racing drivers from Tesla.

As with all other records of this magnitude, the attempt to chase and surpass a record comes with a steep price. In this case, that involves the amount of money spent on the whole project, which, was estimated to be around AUD $280,000, or about $284,000 based on current exchange rates.

Seeing as the previous record lasted 22 years without the advantages of technological advancements, it’s highly unlikely that the Sunswift Ivy’s record as the fastest solar-powered car in the world won’t last as long as it’s predecessor. Who knows, we might even see a solar-powered car break the 100 km/h barrier pretty soon.

In the meantime, though, the record belongs to the Sunswift Ivy after earning each and every source of speed it’s solar-powered-ness could handle.


By the way, I’d like to add, regardless of my last post, congratulations to the team that achieved this. I certainly know the effort that goes into doing something like this and the fun it is to get to drive something like that around. I hope they keep pushing and acheive even greater things in the future.

I didn’t know the record was so low, since I’ve personally done more than that in the 1999 Clarkson Hyperion while prepping for the 1999 Sunrayce. In fact, I’m pretty sure our car exceeded 55 mph on several occaisions. Our car was also less expensive at $250,000 and we only used an 8 square meter array with only 14% efficient solar cells (pretty good for ten years ago). There must be more to the requirements, otherwise, I unknowingly broke a world record over ten years ago.

Does it mean that Sunswift Ivy’s goal would be a alternative way whenever your car is stuck up? Is there a farther research about this concept? I really don’t think that its possible.

Wow! that’s amazing! I have read about several attempts to develop a solar power car that will run fast. And 88.8km/h not bad though!

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