Using Solar Power to cross the Nullarbor – Sunswift & Violet

Using Solar Power to cross the Nullarbor – Sunswift & Violet

At a recent stop-over at the Big 4 Wagga Wagga, we noticed a rather unusual vehicle pull up at one of the campsites.  There was a hype of activity as about 25 people started buzzing around.  Half of them started pulling the car apart while the rest started setting up swags and tents.

The Sunswift Team @ Big 4 Wagga Wagga

The car in question, in particular, is what took our attention.  It wasn’t your common 4WD towing a caravan. Instead, it was a sleek looking car with solar panels all over the roof.

We got chatting to Matthew Holohan, who was nominated as the spokesperson for the group.  It turns out the car was part of the Sunswift Project run by the University of New South Wales.  The Sunswift Project has been running for 26 years and has already produced six solar cars and set three world records.

Mathew explained the Sunswift project involved a team of undergraduate university students who were tasked with designing and building the solar power vehicle.  The vehicle is then used to race in the World Solar Challenge, and whilst a heap of fun is to be had, the end result is many hours of research is going into developing how solar power can be used to power our vehicles into the future.

A few things still to do before the Nullarbor Crossing

Mathew indicated the research and development that has gone into producing the vehicle would also be of great assistance to the RV industry, with many more caravans and motorhomes now camping off grid and relying on solar power.

The particular vehicle, aptly named Violet, has been a long-term project, commencing in 2016, it took over a year to construct and a cost of over $600,000.  And whilst this cost is high, one of the major goals of the project is to use this research to produce the first road legal solar car.

This car, in particular, has been in trials since. Also, recently participated in the World Solar Challenge from Darwin to Adelaide. Unfortunately, did not finish as the suspension failed. So on this occasion, they are attempting to drive from Sydney to Perth and back again in record time.

We caught the team during day two of their adventure. They were preparing to cross the Nullarbor, a journey that many of us plan on.  The plan is to test the car on the way over to Perth. Then attempt to drive all the way back in 9 days finishing at Milson Point in Sydney.

The team was planning to stay in swags along the way in Caravan Parks and Free Camps. Ironically, after planning almost everything to do with the car, they had not planned too far ahead when it came to finding camping grounds.

Violet crossing the Nullarbor
Free Range Camping to the rescue

We told Mathew all about Free Range Camping and how we help campers and caravanners find campsites. And of course, gave him and the team a copy of the Free Range Camping App.  A few quick lessons on how to use it and Mathew was very grateful. He and the team would now have a great way of finding places to camp along the way across.  He was even more impressed when he found out he could use the App offline.

The team find a place to camp for the night

We understand the team has now successfully completed the crossing in record time and arrived back in Sydney. It looks like they may have broken a Guinness World Record along the way. Also, might be a win for us all in our constant search for renewable energy.

Safely back home in record time
Congratulations Violet.

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