The Sunswift II was designed and built by volunteer students from the University of New South Wales Solar Racing Team.
Sunswift II was the team’s second car initially built in 1987 and rebuilt and refined over the following seven years before its retirement, after being rolled in its trailer. Some of this damage can still be seen on the vehicle.
The power collected out of the solar array was around 1.2kW which is the amount of power it takes to toast a piece of bread, however, despite this the car had a top speed of 130kph. This was possible through its efficient electrical system, excellent aerodynamics and a light structure made of carbon fibre.
The car competed in the 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2003 SunRace, the 1999, 2001 and 2003 World Solar Challenge from Darwin to Adelaide. It’s most notable achievement is its solar array for which it received the 2002 SunRace Enterprise Award for Technical Innovation.
Twenty-six students relinquished their summer break in 2000-2001 to manufacture 7,000 high efficiency Buried Contact Solar cells at 19.5% efficiency. The entire project was completed in under four months and involved approximately 10,000 work hours. The Sunswift team remains the only solar car team in the world to have constructed its own cells. In addition it also developed a new method of encapsulation that allowed the team to construct solar panels with composite curves — another world first that enabled the elegant curves still present in the car. Over time some of this encapsulation has now delaminated from the cells.
The race still occurs with an average winning speed in 2016 of 91.75 kmh, a far cry from Sunswift II’s 53.2 kmh.
This car has been kindly loaned to the Museum by UNSW.