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Sunswift IVy claims record for world’s fastest solar-powered car


January 9, 2011

The Sunswift IVy during the 2009 Global Green Challenge

The Sunswift IVy during the 2009 Global Green Challenge

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With a speed of 88.738 km/h (55.077 mph), the University of New South Wales’ (UNSW) Sunswift IVy has claimed the Guinness World Record for the fastest solar-powered vehicle. The record-beating run took place on January 7 at HMAS Albatross navy base airstrip in Nowra, Australia, and outdid the previous record-holder by more than 10 km/h (6.2 mph).

Designed and built by UNSW students, Sunswift IVy is a three-wheeled vehicle with a monocoque carbon fiber body, brushless CSIRO 3 phase DC 1800 W motor, solar array producing about 1200 W (the same it takes to run a toaster) and, usually, a 24.75 kg (55.56 lb) lithium ion polymer battery pack. However, as the milestone is for cars powered exclusively by silicon solar cells, the battery was removed for the record attempt.

While students usually drive the car, the record-breaking run was piloted by professional racing driver Barton Mawer and Craig Davis, from electric car company Tesla’s European operations.

The record-beating run took place at 10.32 am. The team wasn’t expecting to get peak sun until noon and therefore wasn’t expecting to break the record so early in the day.

Although the team says they believe they can get the record to over 90 km/h (55.9 mph), they weren’t able to improve on the time in subsequent runs. The arrival of rain at 1.30 pm then prevented any further attempts.

After breaking the record, Mawer said the car handled reasonably well, "although I think I gave the team a bit of a scare when I got up on two wheels on the turn."

Adjudicators from The Guinness World Book of Records were on hand to witness the record-breaking run and have already officially recognized the new record and handed over a certificate. The previous record of 78 km/h (48.5 mph) was set by the GM Sunraycer in 1987.

This isn’t the first time the UNSW's Sunswift IVy has tasted success. It also competed in the 3,000 km (1,864 mile) Global Green Challenge race from Darwin to Adelaide in 2009, winning its category.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

Solar noon was around 1pm on the day of the attempt. Also, the record is for solar-powered vehicle in general, whether they use Si or GaAs cells.

Tommy Heyser

Great to see young people who enjoy achieving something. Whining Student Grant rioters take note.


Awesome for all of us alternate fuel fans. Major hat tip to the UNSW students & crew. Great team work and result. Onwards and upwards.


the @OpenRoadOz team.

Nick Ramage

@Terotech What you call \"whining\" and which is actually resistance against absurd and unacceptable lunacy has preserved or enabled the remnants of freedom and wealth that chauvinist like you enjoy without ever realizing where they come from.

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