Crowd-funding helps Sunswift become road-worthy

A team of 60 undergraduate students at UNSW Engineering has received more than $36,000 from an online crowd-funding campaign on Pozible, to enable them to transform their Sunswift solar-powered car into the world’s first road-worthy solar vehicle.

“It was pretty crazy and exciting,” says Hayden Smith, a fourth-year combined Engineering and Science student, and the Sunswift project manager. “We started the campaign on 1st of December over a three- week period, and we got most of the money in just six hours!”

In July last year, Sunswift made international headlines when it broke a 26-year-old world record for the fastest electric car over 500 kilometres on a single battery charge.

Covered in zero-emission solar panels on the hood and roof, and with a battery storage system that can be charged with the solar cells or by plugging the car into a power outlet, the car is capable of covering the maximum distance a normal road user might want to drive, and can reach speeds of over 140 km per hour.

“The car is a symbol for a new era of sustainable driving,” Smith says. “We want to take that further by getting it out on the road, driving it across the Harbour Bridge and out into the rural areas on the highway, so people can see it.”

About 20 of the team’s members will be heading out in convoy to cover 2,000 kilometres in July; taking the eVe (the fifth to be built and raced since the team was founded in 1996) on a serious road trip.

The team hopes to visit regional and rural schools from Wollongong to Port Macquarie and also travel through inland towns such as Dubbo and Wagga, to encourage high school students to study engineering at UNSW, although the actual itinerary is still under discussion.

Before the road trip, the Sunswift team’s first deadline is to use the Pozible funds to get the car roadworthy by about May or June. If successful, eVe will be the first road legal solar sports car registered in Australia and will have to meet the Australian Design Rules (ADRs) – which are far more rigorous than car design and safety requirements in any other country in the world.

“Full registration is no humble feat with essentially the whole car needing to be deconstructed and rebuilt,” Smith says. “We were initially designing the car for racing during the day, so we didn’t have headlights or wind shield wipers or the usual kind of seatbelts and the wheels don’t have the same grip as normal cars’ wheels.”

The crowd-funded donations will pay for these changes, as well as new rear and side impact protection, raised suspension, updated electrical components and an interior redesign that meets safety regulations and offers a level of comfort expected from a commercial car.

"For the students, designing and building this car has been an unrivalled hands-on experience that has taken them way beyond classroom learning,” the project's academic mentor, Dr Graham Doig, says. “It is really a unique proving ground for the talents of our next-generation engineers.”

If you would like further information on how you can support Sunswift, please contact Victoria Miller on 02 93855364 or v.miller[at]unsw.edu[dot]au

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