Driving 26,500km is an extreme way to prove the potential of electric cars, but that’s exactly what a team of postgraduate students from Imperial College London did.
Their 140-day journey took them from the heart of Alaska to the world’s southernmost city, Ushuaia in Argentina, passing through deserts and rain forests on the way.
For a project called Racing Green Endurance, the group took a chassis donated by British super-car maker Radical, and retooled it as an electric vehicle using existing parts, and a healthy amount of ingenuity.
|The sun-powered speeder
The Racing Green Endurance team aren’t the only ones to have mastered massive distances without being propped up by petrol. In October 2010, a car powered by Sharp’s compound solar cells triumphed for a second consecutive time in an 11-day solar car race around South Africa.
The Tokai Challenger, built by a team from Tokai University in Japan, beat its rivals to the finish line after navigating a 4061km course that started and finished in Pretoria and passed through Johannesburg and Cape Town. It hit an average speed of 90.1km/h during its journey.
The Sharp solar cells which power the Tokai Challenger have a cell conversion efficiency of 30%, the highest level in the world, with an output of 1.8kW. The same panel design is used by NASA to power part of the Kennedy Space Center.
The Radical SR8, originally built for street and track racing, had its gearbox removed and replaced with Thunder Sky Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries to power a pair of evo-electric motors added to the rear wheels. It was then rechristened the SRZero.
The alterations the team made to the car to create the SRZero allowed them to drastically cut the amount of energy wasted. That gave the car a range of up to 482km on a single charge with costs of just £0.01 per mile. The conversion to electric power still produced 400bhp and a top speed of 124mph versus the petrol-powered version’s 170mph.
Despite facing lashing rainstorms in an open top car, broken chargers, breakdowns, crashes, and the attention of police along the way, the students managed to travel in the SRZero along the entire route.
Having returned relatively unscathed from its adventures, the SRZero is now touring the UK to encourage other engineers to work with electric vehicles.
You can see part of the the SRZero’s amazing journey in the video below and find out more at Racing Green Endurance.