50 cents for 500km: New solar car drives petrol-free future

UNNSW Sunswift solar car project director, former Ballina student, Hayden Smith.
UNNSW Sunswift solar car project director, former Ballina student, Hayden Smith. Contributed Sunswift/Daniel Chen

TWO former Northern Rivers high school students are leading the way in solar car development having just broken a world speed record for an electric vehicle.

The pair, former Xavier student, Hayden Smith, 21, and former Byron Bay High School student, Zuni Dierk, 20, are part of a University of NSW student team who designed, built and raced a solar-powered car that broke a world record with an average speed of more than 100 km/h over a distance of 500km, on a single battery - bettering the previous world record of 73km/h.

The record will now be officially approved by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) - the world motorsport's governing body.

The Sunswift UNSW team broke the record with their eVe car that took 12 months to develop and cost $500,000 to custom build.

About eVe

The team of UNSW undergrad students aged from 19-23 years was ecstatic to have beaten the world record on a Geelong racetrack last week and is now looking to be the first in Australia to register a solar-powered car, project director and software engineering student, Hayden Smith, of Ballina, said.

"It was the biggest payoff for all the work that has been put into the car," Mr Smith said.

"We now want to be the first solar-powered car registered in Australia by next March," he said.

The team hopes the car's performance on the track proves it is ready for day-to-day practical use.

"With the world record we have proved that solar cars can work at freeway speeds over long distances," he said.

"500kms is pretty much as far as a normal person would want to drive in a single day," Mr Smith said.

"It's another demonstration that one day you could be driving our car."

While the car's journey only used 50 cents in grid electricity, this prototype car cost nearly half a million dollars to produce, he said.

"We had to design it from scratch and have specially made moulds produced - that was the most expensive aspect."

While former Byron High student and now renewables engineering student, Zuni Dierk was one of the team's two drivers, Hayden, worked as the team's project director.

"It's been a crazy six months," he said.

The eVe electric car in action.
The eVe electric car in action. Contributed Sunswift/Daniel Chen

About eVe

  • Zero-emission solar and battery storage systems.
  • Uses solar panels on the roof and hood to charge a 60kg battery.
  • Panels were switched off during the world-record attempt, leaving the car to run solely on the battery charge.
  • Car tested on a 4.2km circular track at the Australian Automotive Research Centre, 50kms outside Geelong, Victoria.
  • The UNSW Sunswift team comprises of 60 undergraduate students.
  • Students are drawn from across all engineering disciplines.
  • eVe can carry two people (driver and a passenger)
  • Can travel 500km on a single charge of its lithium-ion batteries
  • Has a top speed of 140km/h
  • Built of ultra-light carbon fibre
  • Prototype cost about $500,000 to build but future vehicles could be built much more cheaply

Topics:  cars editors picks electric cars solar power

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