As a boy growing up in Australia I remember the buzz around the inaugural World Solar Challenge, a 3,000 km race for solar-powered cars through the centre of the country. The first race was spectacularly won by the GM Sunraycer, a sleek futuristic-looking super-light car piloted by Australian John Harvey. The Sunraycer featured many world-first innovations, including the GM Magnaquench motor, solar cells from space satellites, silver-oxide batteries and a frame that weighed only 14 pounds. The car caused such a stir that it seemed electric cars, if not solar-powered ones, were just around the corner. Since that time the World Solar Challenge has been run 12 times, the record is held by a team from TU Delft, set in 2009 with a time of 29 hours 11 minutes, over 15 hours quicker than the Sunraycer. More importantly, we are starting to drive electric cars of our own. The promise of electric cars is finally starting to materialize, 27 years later.
The GM Sunraycer Picture credit: Wiki commons
The history of low-emissions transport goes back much further than 1987. Let’s take a drive back through the history of the automobile to look at some of the remarkable designs that have graced our roads.