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Solar powered automobile 'Solar Resource'
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The solar powered automobile 'Solar Resource' on the World Solar Challenge transcontinental race through outback Australia in 1987. Courtesy of Ian Landon Smith

Images: 01 02 03 04

Object statement
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.
  • In the 1987 World Solar Challenge this car achieved an average of 25.64 km/hr. By contrast, in the 2011 Solar Challenge the winning car achieved an average of 91.54 km/hr.
  • The 'Solar Resource' cost approximately $75,000 to build in 1986-1987 as a privately funded backyard project by a small team of engineers and designers headed by Ian Landon Smith.
See another object with talking points
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.

Specifications

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.

 This text content licensed under CC BY-NC.

Description
Automobile, full-size, solar powered, 'Solar Resource', designed and built by Ian Landon Smith, Australia, 1986-1987.

This is a four wheeled vehicle constructed on a square tube frame. It has a very low body (just over one metre in total height), square in section with round nose and removable fibreglass cockpit cover and tinted windscreen. Body panels are made of fibreglass, mylar and kevlar, and painted white. Ther are four holes in the front of the nose for ventilation, and one in the top of the canopy to enable the rear vision mirror to sit above the roof on a 'stalk'. The axles extend horizontally from each side, further at the front than at the rear, and there are white aerofoil covers over the axles. The wheels have pneumatic tyres. There are four orange indicator lights at each corner. Inside the cockpit polystyrene panels are set into the sides, the aluminium tube frame seat is set in the horizontal position; the squabs and headrest consist of light net-like material. Control panel has digital readout instruments labelled with 'Dymo tape': battery voltage, battery amp, solar voltage, solar amp, as well as a clock and stop watch. Bracketed under the instrument panel is a twenty channel CB radio. Behind the seat are two bottles, one attached to a tube for drinking, the other attached to a squirter for cooling the driver. Further back are two 12 volt Pulsar batteries. A boomerang-shaped steering wheel is set in the centre. The car is powered by a Swiss-made electric motor with variable chain drive to rear wheels. Total weight is 170 kilograms.

Designed: Landon Smith, Ian; Wahroonga, New South Wales

Made: Landon Smith, Ian; Wahroonga, New South Wales; 1986 - 1987


Used: Landon Smith, Ian; Darwin, Northern Territory; 1987

Used: Landon Smith, Ian; Adelaide, South Australia; 1987
90/813
Height
1040 mm
Width
2000 mm
Depth
5430 mm

 This text content licensed under CC BY-SA.
Acquisition credit line
Gift of Mr Ian Landon Smith, 1990
Subjects
+ Solar powered motor cars
+ Solar research
+ Solar energy technology
Currently on public display
+ Transport Exhibition
Short persistent URL
Concise link back to this object: http://from.ph/109983
Cite this object in Wikipedia
Copy and paste this wiki-markup:

{{cite web |url=http://from.ph/109983 |title=Solar powered automobile 'Solar Resource' |author=Powerhouse Museum |accessdate=1 October 2014 |publisher=Powerhouse Museum, Australia}}


Copyright
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