In November 1990, Solar Kiwi, New Zealand’s first solar-powered racing car, successfully competed in the second triennial Darwin-to-Adelaide World Solar Challenge. (See New Zealand Geographic, Issue 9).
Two of Solar Kiwi’s builders, Stewart and Vivianne Lister of Hamilton, initially regarded their adventure as a “oncer,” but with a little prompting, and an offer of financial backing from a local group, the Listers decided to reconsider, and the Solar Kiwi Challenge 1993 project was born.
More advanced technology will be used in the new car, which Stewart hopes will make it “technically capable of finishing in the first ten.”
But the new project is about more than just the next Australian race. The Listers have also launched a solar model contest, aimed at teaching young New Zealanders wise energy use and an understanding of energy options.
A total of 118 New Zealand high schools, from Taipa to Invercargill, will build model solar cars to compete in regional races to be held in October 1992, with the finals planned for Hamilton in November 1992. The Listers provide a starter kit containing a solar panel, motor, transmission and resource book. The rest is up to the school.
The Listers are currently visiting all the schools in the competition. As well as showing off Solar Kiwi, they give children rides on a solar-assisted electric scooter and explain the finer points of making a model solar racer.
When space and weather permit, a few lucky students even get to drive Solar Kiwi. The headmaster of one school, when offered a turn around the tennis court, swiftly seized the steering wheel and the opportunity with both hands. With a gleam in his eye, he accelerated straight for the gate, and the call of the open road. It is a racing car, after all!
Long Bay College (situated just north of Auckland), has even more ambitious plans than simply joining the model racer competition. Inspired by the exploits of the four high school entrants in the 1990 race, they have decided to go for the real thing. They plan to be at the start line in Darwin in November 1993 with their own entry.