The Sunswift Violet set off on a meet-and-greet tour earlier this week, ahead of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge next month. The four-seat electric sedan rocks 284 microcrystalline solar cells on the upper surfaces of the vehicle, giving a peak output of 1.1 kW, and has been designed for "practicality, speed and endurance." Such aspects will be tested to their limits during the 3,021-km (1,877-mi) race from Darwin to Adelaide.
The 6th-generation vehicle, with previous creations having secured world speed records for an electric vehicle in 2011 and 2014, has been designed and built by undergraduate student members of the Sunswift solar racing team at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), which was founded back in 1995. It's due to battle it out for the top spot against 47 teams from 21 nations in this year's Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, which starts on October 8.
"Violet looks like a family sedan, but uses as much power as a four-slice toaster," said team leader Simba Kuestler. "She's got entertainment and air conditioning systems, including navigation, reverse camera parking sensors, and there's even Wi-Fi aboard. And she's got plenty of front and rear boot space."
The Challenge takes the form of a race from Darwin to Adelaide, notching up some 3,021 km along the way. But before the Sunswift team even crosses the start line, the Violet car is being taken on a 4,300-km (2,672-mi) road trip, meeting with communities along the way – including stops at Coober Pedy and Alice Springs – to promote the Challenge and the tech.
The car is reported to be capable of reaching a top speed of 130 km/h (80 mph), though the team will need to keep under 60 km/h to drive along on solar power alone. Maximum PV-only range is said to be 800 km (just under 500 mi), but Li-ion batteries, which are topped up by the sun, also offer a battery-only range of 400 km. The Sunswift Violet has two 1.5 kW motors that are reported to run at 98 percent efficiency, rolling 9 horses (7 kW) at 110 km/h and delivering 90 Nm (66 lb.ft) of torque.
The carbon-fiber monocoque chassis and aluminum front and rear suspension help the sporty sedan keep its weight down to 380 kg (838 lb), and aero designs get drag coefficient under 0.2. The video below shows the Sunswift Violet undergoing pre-race testing at the Sydney Motorsport speedway track in Eastern Creek, New South Wales, Australia.