As a team we spend countless hours working on perfecting our car for the World Solar Car Challenge, where we look forward to racing in the Australian Outback against the most competitive teams in the world. Week after week teams around the globe spend hundreds of hours refining a car that they hope will finish first. Few actually consider how this monumental project started.
It began with a Danish man named Hans Tholstrup. An adventurer, Hans had already circumnavigated Australia in a small boat called, “Tom Thumb,” before deciding to build his own solar car and cross the Australian continent in it in 1982. He named the car, “Quiet Achiever.” When asked what the point of this daredevil feat was, Hans replied, “It may take a lot longer to see what the Solar Trek may lead to, but if it will motivate just one more idea and thought in the development of solar power, then the venture will have been well worthwhile.”
The route that he traveled inspired the World Solar Challenge that we compete in today. His car traveled 2,800 miles in 20 days across the severe outback. He drove at the leisurely pace of about 14 mph, whereas UMsolar’s car can reach speeds of 105 mph. But 29 years later, UMsolar does precisely what Hans did to start it all. Travel far and work hard to hone technological innovations of the future.