Last October, the SolarWorld GT solar-powered car set out from Darwin, Australia on a drive around the world. It has since driven 3,001 kilometers (1,865 miles) across Australia, logged 1,947 km (1,210 miles) crossing New Zealand and been shipped across the Pacific Ocean. This Friday, it will embark on the U.S. leg of its journey, as it sets out across America from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
The SolarWorld GT is the result of a collaboration between solar panel manufacturer SolarWorld, and Bochum University of Applied Sciences in Germany. The four-wheeled, two-door, two-seat car gathers solar energy through photovoltaic panels built into its roof, with its solar generator offering a peak performance of 823 watts. Custom hub motors are located in both of the front wheels.
The vehicle manages an average speed of 50 km/h (31 mph), with a claimed top speed of 100 km/h (62 mph).
In order to demonstrate that solar powered cars needn't be a radical departure from what consumers are used to, the street-legal GT's dimensions are similar to those of a conventional automobile. Unlike a regular car, however, it weighs in at just 260 kilograms (573 lbs) and has a low drag coefficient of 0.14. The vehicle was designed and built by a team of 30 Bochum students from the fields of mechatronics, computer science, and mechanical and electrical engineering.
The SolarWorld GT will be making various stops throughout the southern U.S. between now and March 9, when it is scheduled to arrive in Florida. It will then be shipped across the Atlantic Ocean, to continue driving across Europe, Asia and Africa. It should hopefully arrive back at Darwin late this year. Assuming it does, it will set the Guinness Record for the longest distance covered by a solar car - approximately 34,000 kilometers, or 21,080 miles.