If you had to describe Australia in one word what would it be? Sunny. Australia is the sunniest continent on the planet. Go figure, Australia is also the sunniest country in the continent of Australia. The sun may be the culprit of skin cancer but it is also the likely solution to sustainable energy. Solar power has advanced far beyond those solar calculators you used in Calculus. Vehicles running entirely off of the sun’s energy are winding their way across continents. Who is at the forefront of this solar vehicle revolution? Why Australian universities, of course!
The World Solar Challenge occurs is held every two years. The biennial event runs from Darwin to Adelaide, trekking through the harsh Red Centre. The world’s first (and still largest) solar race attracts top engineers and environmental advocates from around the world. The grueling race was famously depicted in the 90’s blockbuster hit Race the Sun.
We wouldn’t expect anything less from our host country. The world’s fastest solar powered vehicle is the University of New South Wales Sunswift IV. The “IVy” is both student designed and driven. Reaching a top end speed of 88 km/h (55 mph), the “IVy” smashed the record. The same team previously won the Silicon class in the 2009 World Solar Challenge.
Finishing only seven minutes slower than the “IVy” in 2011 was Australia’s own Aurora. This vehicle is a collaboration among the University of Melbourne, Monash University, RMIT University, Swinburne University, University of New South Wales and the University of Technology Sydney. The South Australian Trade School (TAFE SA) also fields a team with a unique solar powered vehicle of their own.
If you’re into sustainability studies, there isn’t a better place to be. With plentiful sun, wind and waves, the resources for alternative energy are almost infinite! With the next Solar Challenge over a year away, there is still time to contribute at an Australian university.