Solar car racing is not new. The Powerhouse Museum has one of the cars that competed in the world’s first transcontinental solar car race, then called the Pentax World Solar Challenge, in 1987. Ours, dubbed Solar Resource, was designed and built by a small team of Sydney engineers headed by Ian Landon Smith in the garage of a North Shore home. Imagine what the locals thought when they took it out for a test drive back in the 80s!
The car managed to average 25.64 km/hr over the 3,000 km race from Darwin to Adelaide. The entrants in the current race are cruising at something like 90 km/hr and can go up to 140 km/hr. Although state-of-the-art at the time, Solar Resource has electro-mechanical control and is really pretty primitive by today’s standards. Solar Resource came first in the private entry class and 7th overall out of a field of 24 starters – but only 11 finished the race.
You don’t have to travel to Adelaide to see a solar car. Ours is on display in the Museum’s Transport exhibition, so come in and check out the 760 solar cells on the fibreglass and Kevlar body and contemplate how far we’ve come in 22 years.
Post by Margaret Simpson, Curator