Subject to official verification by the FIA, UNSW engineering students have broken the world speed record for an electric vehicle travelling over a distance of 500 kilometres on a single battery charge.
While the Sunswift team are notorious for setting the standards in solar car racing, the solar panels were switched off to prove the car’s capabilities on a single battery charge.
The record attempt was set at proving grounds at the Australian Automotive Research Centre just outside of Geelong in Victoria, on Wednesday 23 July 2014, with an unofficial average speed of 100km/h. The previous record, which stood for 26 years, was 73km/h.
Project Director and third-year UNSW engineering student Hayden Smith was ecstatic with the successful outing.
“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 Smith.
Dubbed the Sunswift, the team enlisted professional drivers Garth Walden and CAMS’ own Karl Reindler in driving through the record attempt.
“I think it’s such a cool car, and something special to be a part of. To be here today, and see all the hard work the guys and girls have put into the car is a full credit to them.” Said Walden, who is also a regular in the NSW SuperSports State Championships competing in an electric Radical.
“It’s not every day you come out to a track and get to break a world record, so it’s definitely exciting.”
As motor sport races toward renewable energy technologies, electric power poses some fundamental differences in driving styles and sensations when compared to conventional fossil fuelled engines.
“The instant torque is one of the biggest things. Obviously how quiet it is, getting used to no engine noise and obviously no gear changes. Once you get used to all that, at the end of the day, it’s still a race car. It still has aero, it still has brakes, so you’ve got the drive it like a normal race car. But the acceleration rate of one of those cars is fantastic.” Said Walden
CAMS Driver Development Manager, and V8 Supercars endurance driver, Karl Reindler also spoke of the differences between conventional race cars and electric powered vehicles.
“It’s kind of nice to have that level of quiet. It’s so foreign for me, usually you’re trying to do everything you can to block noise out but in this thing you can hear every little vibration because there’s no engine noise, there’s no tyre noise even,” said Reindler
“You start your other senses working overtime. I smelt the front-right tyre when I went over a few bumps I copped a few whiffs off the tyre burning rubber. You become a lot more aware of other things because there is no noise. I think I’ve learnt a few things from it.”
Reindler also gave credit to the UNSW Sunswift team in achieving the record, and their work ethic involved.
“They’re a great bunch of guys and girls. They’re very enthusiastic, it’s a big team. They’ve got about 24 people here supporting the car, which is as big as any V8 Supercar team for an individual car
“They’ve obviously got a lot to learn, but I’ve been really impressed how they’ve taken onboard any advice I’ve given or feedback. They’ve made appropriate changes and the car’s run faultlessly all the way through.” Said Reindler.
The Sunswift team were jubilant when Garth Walden completed his second, and final stint to complete the 500km trek in just under five hours.
“As a racing driver you always want to be on the podium and it's not every day you get to break a world record. I really enjoyed hanging out with the team and being part of history.” Said Walden.
The Sunswift team is comprised of 60 undergraduate students across all engineering disciplines. A quarter of the team made the trek to witness the record attempt.
The team’s next challenge is to now prepare the Sunswift for road-legal use.
* The record attempt is subject to verification by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA).