UNSW Sydney’s student-built Sunswift 7 solar-powered car has been declared the winner of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in the Cruiser Class. It is the first time an Australian car has won the Cruiser Class category in the World Solar Challenge since it was first introduced back in 2015.
The team, led by former Red Bull F1 Chief of Operations and AMIP’s inaugural ambassador, Professor Richard Hopkins, was dominantly leading the points classification on day four of the 3600km race from Darwin to Adelaide, before weather conditions threw the competition into disarray.
Up until fierce winds drew the unfortunate conclusion to the on-road race, Sunswift was significantly ahead on points throughout the competition thanks largely to its high rating for ‘person kilometres travelled’, boosted by carrying three passengers as well as its driver, as well as being ahead of the other Cruiser cars in each completed stage.
Still, the team still had to wait until a final scrutineering session on Saturday when a panel of judges gave an additional score to each car based on criteria such as design innovation, environmental impact, ease of access and egress, occupant space and comfort, ease of operation (driving and charging), versatility, and style and desirability.
Following all calculations, Sunswift finished top of the rankings with a total score of 91.1 points to claim the trophy, lightyears ahead of the University of Minnesota in second place on 22.4, with Team Solaride from Estonia finishing third with 14.7.
Sunswift 7 already holds a Guinness World Record after completing 1000km on a single charge in under 12 hours in December 2022.
Sunswift Racing team principal, Professor of Practice Richard Hopkins, said: “I could not be more proud of this team for what they have achieved.
“The work the students have done is simply amazing and I can only say positive things because they have been so focused and committed and professional.
In a recent cover story profile for MTA Magazine, Richard shared his unique perspective on working with budding engineers.
“The beautiful thing about working with students is that nobody tells them they can’t do it. They wake up in the morning with an idea, and all they need is a bit of support and guidance to get them to where they want to go; and I’m someone who never says no to a great,” he told MTA.
While speaking on the AMIP facility and his ambassador role, Richard described it as the ‘Tinder of motorsport’ – and does see a common thread between his work with students, race teams and the ARDC:
“I think [in Australia] there is the passion, there just isn’t necessarily the opportunities –it’s about joining the dots. It’s there –we just need to stoke the fire a little bit.”