Australian university students have broken a 26-year-old world speed record, established with their Sunswift solar car as the fastest electric vehicle travelling over a distance of 500 kilometres on a single battery charge.

The world record was broken by the team of University of New South Wales at a racetrack in Geelong, Victoria. The car achieved an average speed of more than 100 km/h during the attempt, bettering the previous world record of 73km/h. However, no definitive numbers are issued until the record is officially approved by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), world motorsport’s governing body.

“This record was about establishing a whole new level of single-charge travel for high-speed electric vehicles, which we hope will revolutionise the electric car industry,” said jubilant project director and third-year engineering student Hayden Smith.

sunswift_car_daniel_chenOne of the professional drivers involved in the world record attempt, Garth Walden, said:  “As a racing driver you always want to be on the podium and it’s not everyday you get to break a world record. I really enjoyed hanging out with the team and being part of history.”

The solar vehicle, which ranked third in the 2013 edition of the World Solar Challenge Cruiser Class, uses solar panels on the roof and hood to charge a 60kg battery. However, the panels were switched off during today’s world-record attempt, leaving the car to run solely on the battery charge.

The team hopes the car’s performance proves it is ready for day-to-day practical use. “Five hundred kilometres is pretty much as far as a normal person would want to drive in a single day,” Smith said. “It’s another demonstration that one day you could be driving our car.”

No secret has been made of Sunswift’s long-term goals for the car. They expect it to meet Australian road registration requirements within as little as one year, and have previously said its zero-emission solar and battery storage systems make it “a symbol for a new era of sustainable driving”.

Photos by Daniel Chen (UNSW Sunswift)

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Tim is co-founder of ElectricAutosport.com and works in international motorsport. He found his passion for sustainable racing by joining world’s first competition for hydrogen electric vehicles in 2008. He does not doubt on the possibility of a break through of electric racing. And that deserves a platform to keep up to date and to interact. Tim operates on behalf of Formula Blue Media.

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