Here’s How Sunswift IVy Became The Fastest Solar Powered Vehicle

This quirky vehicle currently holds the Guinness World Record of being the fastest solar powered car on Earth.

What’s the deal with this desk on wheels claiming to be the fastest solar powered car in the world? What car do you think of when you hear the phrase “world’s fastest solar powered vehicle”? Is it something simple like that of a golf cart sized one seater with a single panel on top?

Do you envision more of an extreme creation like that of a Model S or a Prius specially fitted with a wide variety of solar panels strewn across the hood and the roof? What you might not have pictured is something that looks like The Stig’s helmet glued to a giant solar panel covered table on wheels.

The quirky vehicle in question is called the Sunswift IVy and it currently holds the Guinness World Record of  being the fastest solar powered car on Earth. While the record setter may look quite different from common place electric vehicles like that of the Tesla Model 3, it is also powered by electricity; albeit, generated from the sun. Despite this, the way in which the vehicle is propelled is probably where the similarities end.

Let’s take a closer look at the Sunswift IVy.

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Development Of The Sunswift IVy

Sunswift IVY cruising down a road
Via: NewAtlas.com

The Sunswift IVy is an electric/solar powered vehicle that boasts three wheels and is adorned with over 450 solar cells. The frame itself is made completely out of carbon fiber which allows it remain a feathery 364 pounds. While it is light, it does take up a lot of surface area. At 15 feet long and being almost 6 feet wide, the IVy is no G-Whiz in terms of size. Despite how long it may be, the height is a much less impressive 3 feet tall.

According to NewAtlas.com, the mechanisms that power this vehicle are a combination of a brushless CSIRO 3 phase DC 1800 W motor, a 1200 W solar array, and a lithium ion polymer battery. All these mechanisms were developed to whisk the IVy across the Australian Outback while committing minimal environmental damage. The cost of all of this development was a year and a half of blood, sweat, tears, and $250,000.

World Solar Challenge

Map of 2015 solar course
Via: SimpliSolar.com

Aside from being built to look like a piece of eccentric household furniture, the Sunswift IVy was originally created to partake in the 2009 World Solar Challenge in Australia. The challenge itself, is a course that takes participants from the Northern Territory’s Darwin to South Australia’s Adelaide. This trip spans 1,878 miles and takes competitors through the country’s very hot and sun induced Outback. In addition to crossing this distance, the event is also a race in which each car is put into a competitive class.

The IVy was entered in both the Challenger Class and the Challenger Silicon Class. Not only was Sunswift’s contender able to complete the course in its entirety, it was able to cross the line in first place among the Challenger Silicon Class. To add further honors, it was the fourth car to finish the course overall.

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Breaking A World Record

Sunswift IVy and eVe parked
Via: Wikinews

While a podium finish at the World Solar Challenge did barely elude the Sunswift team, they did not let this stop them from taking the IVy to even greater heights. This time around, the crew was going to try and break the world record for the fastest solar powered vehicle on Earth. To accomplish this, a couple of changes were in order.

For starters, in order for the IVy to break this record it must first be solely powered by solar energy. This meant that the 54 pound ion battery pack had to be removed; this further reduced the already relatively weightless vehicle to 310 pounds. Secondly, the team needed a racing driver to accomplish this feat which resulted in the choosing of Barton Mawer. Third and final, the group needed a place to conduct the record setting run; ultimately, Australia’s HMAS Albatross Naval Base was chosen for the task.

At approximately 10:32 AM on January 7th, 2011, Mawer took the IVy down the HMAS Albatross’ airstrip for his attempted record breaking run. Upon completion of his drive, he had set a new world record by achieving 55 miles per hour. Funny enough, this occurred when the sun was not even at its peak which prompted more additional runs. Despite continued attempts, Mawer was unable to beat his newly accomplished record.

Beyond the IVy

Sunswift VIolet driving down road
Via: Sunswift.com

Since the record was set by the IVy, Sunswift has continued to develop more vehicles which have included the eVe and VI-olet (pictured above). Currently, the VI-olet is actively being developed to compete in the Cruiser Class and looks a lot more like a car than its predecessor. For one thing it actually has four wheels and four seats allowing it to at least resemble a modern vehicle.

There has also been some success at a quick solar powered car outside of the Sunswift team. Specifically, Ashiya University’s Sky Ace was able to beat the IVy’s record a few years later when it achieved a speed of 56.75 miles per hour. While it is a mere 1.75 miles per hour more, it is at least a step in the correct direction.

It probably would not be so far-fetched to say that some of this success has inspired companies like that of Lightyear to attempt to bring solar powered cars to the masses. Specifically, the Lightyear One looks to be a very tasteful and desirable alternative to the lunchboxes (or tables) we usually tend to think about when an eco-friendly car comes to mind. Though it is unlikely to happen anytime soon, it would be nice if groups like that of Sunswift and Lightyear could have us touring the country in sun powered style in the near future.

NEXT: Lightyear One: The Solar-Powered Car To Put Your Tesla To Shame

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