Automobile, full-size, solar powered, 'Solar Resource', designed and built by Ian Landon Smith, Australia, 1986-1987.
Australian engineer Ian Landon Smith designed and built this solar-powered car to compete in the world's first transcontinental solar car race, the 1987 World Solar Challenge from Darwin to Adelaide, a distance of 3005 km. Named 'Solar Resource', the car achieved an average of 25.64 km/hr and was placed first in the private entry class and seventh overall.
Petroleum has been an ideal fuel for motor transport. It is easy to pump into a car and a relatively small amount contains a lot of energy (it has high 'energy density'). However, it pollutes the atmosphere and contributes to the greenhouse effect, and supplies of crude oil are running out.
The 1974 the oil crisis was the first indication that the continued use of oil as a cheap source of energy was ultimately unsustainable. The following year petrol prices doubled in Australia, and in 1976 the Australian government introduced an anti-pollution engine design rule. From the early 1980s a range of more energy efficient, less polluting, cars began appearing on the market.
During the 1980s scientists carried out much research into alternative sustainable energy sources such as solar power. The 1987 Pentax World Solar Challenge had 24 entries from 7 countries; Australia (10), USA (4), Japan (4), Germany (3), Denmark (1). Pakistan (1) and Switzerland (1). Of the 24 starters 11 finished the race. The winner was the General Motors entrant, Sunraycer, built in Detroit, USA.
Solar Resource was built in 1986-87 in Sydney as a privately funded backyard project by a small team of engineers and designers headed by Smith. The car has 760 solar cells on a body of fibreglass and Kevlar; almost $1 million was spent on its gallium-arsenide solar cells, normally only used on space satellites.
Solar car races spurred improvements in both solar cell efficiency and electric vehicle design. Technically Solar Resource, although state of the art at the time, has electro-mechanical control and is considered primitive by the standards of later electronically controlled, more streamlined solar vehicles.
This is an Australian-designed and built solar assisted electric car. It was built in 1986-87 as a privately funded backyard project by a small team of engineers and designers headed by Ian Landon Smith.
Solar array: 760 monocrystalline GaAs cells
Electrical: 36V system, 1300W
Transmission: variable with chain single reduction final drive
Suspension rear: beam axle and panhead rod with air bag suspension
Suspension front: double swing axle with spring plate and hydraulic dampers
Steering: bevel gear reduction
Brakes disc, dual circuit hydraulic
Mass: without driver 132kg
The 1987 World Solar Challenge was the world's first transcontinental race for solar powered cars. Run over a distance of 3,005 kilometres from Darwin to Adelaide, the race attracted 24 competitors from seven countries. This car, named 'Solar Resource', is a privately designed and built car, put together in a Sydney backyard. Solar Resource finished in seventh place overall, having travelled at an average speed of 25.64 kilometres per hour, but it gained first place in the Private Entry category. Only 11 of the 24 starters finished the race.
Mr Ian Landon Smith, an engineer and alternative energy specialist, built the car for approximately $75,000 in 1986 - 1987, and in the 18 months he spent designing and building the car, he had to make each component three times over before the final succesful construction. Mr Landon Smith was inspired to build a solar powered car after reading an article in an engineering magazine in 1985. He was well into designing the car when he travelled to Switzerland in 1986 to see the Tour de Sol international solar powered car competition, which then spawned several changes, but did not alter the original concept of his car. After the car proved its engineering prowess in 1987, Mr Landon Smith donated it to the Powerhouse Museum in 1990.