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Solar-powered car breaks record

Published: 9:32PM Monday January 15, 2007 Source: AAP

A car with a power output equal to a household hair dryer has broken the world record for the fastest solar-powered Perth to Sydney road trip.

The futuristic-looking vehicle, using just 1.8 kilowatts of power - the same as a hair dryer - rolled into Sydney on Monday having travelled from coast to coast in five days.

The University of NSW's Solar Racing Team almost halved the previous record set in 1994 and will have the achievement recognised by the International Solar Federation.

Cruising at speeds of between 70km/hr and 90km/hr, the Jaycar Sunswift III used nothing but solar radiation to fuel the epic 4,000km journey, taken from the 11 square metres of solar panels on the top of the vehicle.

Project leader Yael Augarten said the world record-breaking event had been relatively smooth, with the young team struggling mostly with the repeated early rises.

"This is the first time the team has been on a big event, so getting us up in the morning, getting us going was a big one," she said.

"The second big problem was one of the support vehicles got a flat tyre. So, it was a relatively smooth trip."

 Popping champagne at the finish line at Sydney's Circular Quay, co-driver Andrew Wrigley said the world record meant a lot to the team, which had spent more than a year planning for the attempt.

"It's something we've been looking forward to for a year now," he said.

"The record in itself is just awesome ... (the previous record) had been around for 10 years and it needed to be broken."

While the Sunswift III is a clear advertisement for energy efficient transport, he said the car was not suited to public use because of its harsh driving conditions.

"Basically, you're lying down in an almost reclined position just with your head poking out through the canopy," said Wrigley, who shared driving responsibilities with three other

"(It's) very cramped, very hot ... I can guarantee you when you get out in the desert, you can get temperatures of up to 50 degrees inside the cabin."

Resembling a well-packed envelope on wheels, the vehicle is heavy on technical features.

Just three years old, the Sunswift III has a 95% motor efficiency, a top speed of 140km/hr, space for two, and weighs just 220kg.

It has no transmission, nor headlights, and its four wheels are the vehicle's only moving parts.

The Sunswift III team is now gearing up for its next big outing at the World Solar Challenge later this year.