The Quiet Achiever
The Quiet Achiever, also known as the BP Solar Trek, was the world's first practical long-distance solar-powered car powered entirely by photovoltaic solar cells. In December 1982, the Australian-made, British Petroleum (BP)-sponsored car performed the first manned transcontinental journey using only solar power, traversing Australia from west to east. The project was promoted by Hans Tholstrup, and the car was developed by the car's driver Larry Perkins and his brother Garry.
The Quiet Achiever was hand-built by Larry and Garry Perkins. The body skin was made of fiberglass, while the skeleton framework was constructed of steel tubing, similar to what might be used in lightweight aircraft. The car had a large curved frontal window for the driver to see through, and side windows of clear fiberglass. The vehicle had a photovoltaic power system rated at 1 kilowatt, which powered it to an average speed of 14 miles per hour (23 km/h). The car's roof-mounted solar array consisted of two rows of ten 36-cell solar panels that were joined together, giving a total roof area of around 91 square feet (8.5 m2).
Hans Thostrup initially had the idea of auto racing using solar energy because he was interested in conserving non-renewable resources. He and Larry Perkins were inspired by the Sunmobile, a solar-powered automobile built by the General Motors Corporation which was publicly demonstrated in Chicago, United States, in 1955. British Petroleum (BP) sponsored the Quiet Achiever project, which was labelled the BP Solar Trek.
In December 1982 and January 1983, Tholstrup, along with Perkins, drove the car across Australia from Perth to the Sydney Opera House, travelling over 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometers) in under 20 days. By contrast, the first gasoline/petrol powered car took 30 days to do the same trip.
The Quiet Achiever's route was a 2,560-mile (4,130-km) west-to-east course which started on 19 December 1982 in Scarborough, a suburb of Perth, and finished in Sydney on 7 January 1983. The trek went through Southern Cross near Perth before passing through Coolgardie, Norseman, Cocklebiddy, Eucla, Ceduna, Port Augusta, Peterborough, Broken Hill, Wilcannia, Narromine, Dubbo, Orange, Bathurst and Katoomba, eventually ending at the Sydney Opera House. During the journey, thousands of spectators, including the indigenous people of the Nullarbor Plain, gathered to watch the Quiet Achiever pass by. In addition, the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS) monitored the Quiet Achiever throughout its journey to ensure that only solar energy was used to power the vehicle. When the car arrived in Sydney, thousands gathered to watch it approach the Sydney Opera House.
When the journey started at Scarborough Beach, a bottle of seawater from the Indian Ocean was obtained. This water was carried across Australia, before finally being ceremoniously poured into the Pacific Ocean at Sydney.
Influence after event
The success of the Quiet Achiever's trek led Tholstrup to found the annual World Solar Challenge, a solar-powered racing contest, in Australia in 1987. The World Solar Challenge is widely considered to be the world championship of solar car racing. The Quiet Achiever itself is now in the collection of the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.
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- Anzovin, Steven (2000). Famous First Facts. H.W. Wilson Company. ISBN 0-8242-0958-3. p. 186. "The first transcontinental trip by a solar-powered vehicle was completed by Hans Tholstrup and Larry Perkins in the Solar Trek, a custom car powered by a 1 kilowatt photovoltaic array mounted on the hood, roof, and trunk. In 1982, the Solar Trek drove from Perth to Sydney, Australia, covering 2,500 miles (about 4,000 kilometers) in less than 20 days."
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- Pictures of the Quiet Achiever during its journey. Snooks Motorsport.