A team of UNSW students will challenge a 26-year-old world record on Wednesday 23 July to prove their electric car can meet the needs of Australia's driving public

The record – overseen by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), world motorsport's governing body – is for the fastest electric vehicle over a distance of 500 kilometres, on a single battery charge.

The students are from UNSW’s Sunswift, Australia’s top solar car racing team. Their current vehicle eVe is the fifth to be built and raced since the team was founded in 1996.

Earlier versions of the Sunswift car have been used to set a world record for the fastest solar powered road trip from Perth to Sydney, and a Guinness World Record for the fastest solar car. 

Now, the team hopes to add a new world record to its collection – one that proves the car is ready for day-to-day practical use. 

"Five hundred kilometres is pretty much as far as a normal person would want to drive in a single day," project director and third-year engineering student Hayden Smith says. "It's another demonstration that one day you could be driving our car.”

Smith is confident the team will be able to significantly raise the existing world record of 73 kilometres an hour. 

No secret has been made of Sunswift's long-term goals for the car. They expect it to meet Australian road registration requirements within a year, and have previously said its zero-emission solar and battery storage systems make it "a symbol for a new era of sustainable driving”.

The current car uses solar panels on the roof and hood to charge a 60kg battery. However, the panels will be switched off during this month's world-record attempt, leaving the car to run solely on the battery charge.

The vehicle will be put to the test on a 4.2 kilometre circular track at the Australian Automotive Research Centre, located about 50 kilometres outside Geelong, Victoria. 

The record attempt is expected to occur at the end of July. To meet FIA rules, the team has enlisted two professional racing drivers, Karl Reindler and Garth Walden.

Almost a quarter of the Sunswift team – which comprises 60 undergraduate students – will make the trip to Victoria to support the world-record attempt.

"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.

“The land speed record attempt is really a unique proving ground for the talents of our next-generation engineers".

Students are drawn from across all engineering disciplines. The team has also enlisted industrial designers from UNSW Built Environment to rework the car's interiors in preparation for the application for road-legal status. 

What: A world-record attempt to become the fastest electric vehicle over a distance of 500 kilometres.

Where: The Australian Automotive Research Centre, Gum Flats Rd, Anglesea VIC

When:  10 am Wednesday July 23, ( set-up at 8.30am)

See video of the car in action at cnet.com and a review of the car at Gizmodo Australia.

Editor Note: Media wishing to attend in Victoria should be at the track by 8.30am. Please email contact@sunswift.unsw.edu.au for accreditation. The car will also be displayed in Melbourne’s Federation Square on Friday July 25.

Media contact: Ry Crozier, UNSW Media Office, 02 9385 5133, 0425 245 887

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