Half Mag / Half Zine

An electric car has made a record-breaking 621 mile (1,000km) trip on a single charge powered by the sun.

The solar-powered Sunswift 7 averaged nearly 53mph (85kph) in under twelve hours to set a Guinness World Record while completing 240 laps of a track to represent the distance from Sydney to Melbourne.

Sunswift 7 is the latest in a long line of successful solar-powered cars from the University of New South Wales, Sydney, since the first vehicle was produced in 1996.

It weighs just 1,200 pounds, (500kg)—about one quarter of a Tesla—and boasts impressive efficiencies thanks to its aerodynamic design, the efficiency of the motors and drive chain, and incredibly low rolling resistance.

The car is not road legal, as it is missing essentials like climate control and airbags. The cost is prohibitive as well, but a solid dataset is an important jumping off point for building future solar cars in a country like Australia that is blessed with almost year ’round sunshine.

For their World Record, the UNSW team put the car through the paces at the Australian Automotive Research Centre (AARC) in Wensleydale, Victoria. They now hold the record for the ‘Fastest EV over 1,000km on a single charge.’

“It feels very weird to think that we’ve helped to make something that’s the best in the entire world,” said Sunswift team manager Andrea Holden, a mechanical engineering student at UNSW.

“Two years ago, when we started to build this car, everything was going into lockdown and there were a lot of difficult moments. It was a lot of work and a lot of hours and a lot of stress, but it’s all been worth it. This world record is validation of all the effort everyone in the team has put in.”

As the car knocked out its 240 laps—greater than the distance to Melbourne from Sydney, the energy consumption was just 3.8 kWh/100km, a far more efficient rating than even the most efficient EVs on the road today, which average 15kWh-20kWh/100km.

“Let’s remember, these are not the best-paid professional car makers in Stuttgart working for Mercedes,” said team principal and four-time F1 world champion as Head of Operations at Red Bull, Professor Richard Hopkins.

“This is a bunch of very smart amateurs who have taken all the ingredients and put it together in a brilliant way.”

“This team has focused on ultimate efficiency in order to break this world record. They have shown what is ultimately achievable if you concentrate on aerodynamics, and rolling resistance and the use of smart materials.”

“I used to work in Formula One and nobody thinks we’ll be driving F1 cars on the road in five or 10 years. But the technology they use in F1 really pushes the boundaries and some of that filters down [to regular vehicles] and that’s what we are trying to do with Sunswift and what this world record shows is achievable.”