The car that runs on sunshine

Cars that run on the energy of the Sun have already hit the roads of the Australian desert. As the video above explains, they can even cruise along at the same kinds of speeds as a petrol engine.

Imagine a car that runs on the same power as a toaster.

That's what the student-run Stanford Solar Car Project claims to have done. The project designs, builds, tests and races solar-powered vehicles as part of the World Solar Challenge, a 2,000-mile (3,200 kilometre) trek across the Australian Outback. The aim is to develop fuel-efficient, lighter and more aerodynamic vehicles.

As the video above shows, the lightweight vehicle, which cruises at 55mph (89km/h), operates on only one battery pack’s charge. Its bulbous shape is designed to minimise drag, but it was a huge challenge to build.

The team’s engineering philosophy is that they can repurpose traditional designs to make them more efficient and sustainable. Their car won’t ever make it on to the roads however – it is too fragile to survive a crash with another vehicle, and had to be escorted by other cars during the Australian race.

Rachel Abril, a member of the project’s mechanical team, spoke to BBC Future at the team’s Stanford workshop.

Additional video courtesy: Mark Shwartz, Precourt Institute for Energy, Stanford University: http://energy.stanford.edu.

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