Sunswift 7 Solar Electric Car Seeks World Record in Australia

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

While the students from the University of New South Wales wait for the ratification of their recent Guinness World Record attempt for the fastest solar electric car over a distance of 1000 km (620 miles), let’s have a look at the background.

The Sunswift 7 car was the culmination of thousands of hours of work by a team of UNSW students over a period of 18 months through the early perils of COVID-19 and its associated lockdowns.

UNSW Professor of Practice Richard Hopkins and team. Photo courtesy of UNSW Sydney / Richard Freeman

Professor of Practice Richard Hopkins, Sunswift team principal, is immensely proud of everything the students have achieved just to get the car out onto the track. But Prof. Hopkins, formerly Head of Operations for the Red Bull Racing Formula One team, was able to draw on his experience in the top levels of motorsport to guide the team through the challenges.

“This is the result of the hard work of 50 undergraduate students who are very dedicated, very focused and very talented,” he said. “They were given the freedom to create. The criteria was simple: build a car that has solar power and a battery. I had very little influence over what they chose to do within that — I just wanted them to make the best engineering decisions.

“Let’s remember, these are not the best paid professional carmakers in Stuttgart working for Mercedes. This is a bunch of very smart amateurs who have taken all the ingredients and put it together in a brilliant way.”

Sunswift solar electric car engineering team. Photo courtesy of UNSW Sydney / Richard Freeman.

Ironically, the team manager, mechanical engineering student Andrea Holden, carries the same name as Australia’s iconic automotive nameplate.

The Tesla Model S was used as a benchmark. Sunswift 7 weighs 500 kg (1102 lb), about one quarter of the weight of a Model S. It is so efficient that it will complete the 1000 km world record attempt on just a single charge of its solar-powered battery with a drag coefficient of 0.095 — compare that to the Tesla’s 0.208.

Chief Designer Ben Heina went back to the drawing board 57 times before he was happy with the car’s aerodynamics, as well as high performance in terms of converting energy from the solar cells to the battery, efficiency of the motors, and throughout the drivechain, plus incredibly low rolling resistance.

The weight loss was achieved by stripping out a host of safety features and also the air conditioning system. Not the most comfortable ride, I’m sure.

“And when you have an efficient car, you don’t need a lot of battery to make the whole car work,” Hopkins noted. “What we are really doing with Sunswift is a feasibility study. It’s an exercise to show what is possible.” It’s great to see the many university teams competing with their electric offerings.

UNSW Sunswift solar electric car.

Robyn Denholm, alumna of UNSW and Chair of Tesla, saw first-hand what is possible when she visited the Sunswift team, and then told the undergraduates what an amazing job she thought they were doing. So, yes, I think Elon might be aware of all the talent down under!

Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

CleanTechnica Holiday Wish Book

Holiday Wish Book Cover

Click to download.

Our Latest EVObsession Video

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it!! So, we've decided to completely nix paywalls here at CleanTechnica. But...
Like other media companies, we need reader support! If you support us, please chip in a bit monthly to help our team write, edit, and publish 15 cleantech stories a day!
Thank you!

CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.

David Waterworth

David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He is long on Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA].

David Waterworth has 719 posts and counting. See all posts by David Waterworth