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.

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