UNSW's Sunswift solar car has lived up to its name, smashing a Guinness World Record to become the world's fastest solar vehicle.

The car, designed and built by UNSW students, smashed the world solar car speed record at the HMAS Albatross navy base airstrip in Nowra, travelling at more than 88km/h.

The speed was significantly faster than the previous record of 79km/h. The milestone is for cars powered exclusively by silicon solar cells. IVy normally uses its cells to charge a 25kg battery, but this was removed for the record attempt.

"We broke the record at 10.32 this morning," said Sunswift project manager Daniel Friedman. "The Guinness World Book of Records adjudicators were on hand, so it's all official. We've even been handed our certificate."

Friedman said the team was excited that the car performed so well. "We were expecting to get our peak sun at noon, so the fact we broke the record so early was a great result.

"We hope the news will spur a lot more interest in solar energy and the debate about renewable energy technology," he said.

Sunswift IVy is designed and built by UNSW students. While students are also usually the drivers of the carbon-fibre race vehicle, professional racing driver Barton Mawer and Craig Davis, from electric car firm Tesla's European operations, were drivers for this attempt.

"We were confident … we only needed a little bit of sunshine and that was enough," Mawer said.

"I've been lucky enough to drive racing cars all around the world but this was right up there as a buzz. To grab the world record is just great for the whole team, and the University of New South Wales put in a big effort to get this done and hopefully we can keep chipping away at it to raise the bar."

Mawer said the car handled reasonably well, "although I think I gave the team a bit of a scare when I got up on two wheels on the turn".

IVy produces about 1200 watts - the same power it takes to run a toaster. The car hit a top speed of 103km/h during the 3000km Global Green Challenge race from Darwin to Adelaide in 2009, in which the team won their category.

For more information on Sunswift, visit the website.

Media contacts: Daniel Friedman, Sunswift Project Manager