A team of technology students in California has unveiled a lightweight, solar-powered car that is being tipped to be the world's fastest.
The team believes that the 'Xenith' runs on the most efficient car motor in history - and they aim to prove it in a 2,000-mile race across Australia at the 2011 World Solar Challenge.
Weighing in at 170kg, the Xenith has a 4-inch chassis constructed from a mixture of carbon fiber, titanium and aluminum. It uses a unique three-wheel steering system; the driver controls the front wheel while a computer takes care of the two at the back. It is reportedly capable of running for up to 200 miles without sunlight.
The car is fitted with 26 glass solar panels comprised of ultra-high efficiency silicon solar cells. Each panel cost around $1,000 to manufacture, with the entire project costing approximately $500,000 to produce.
"We have built an incredibly thin and light carbon fiber aero body, " boasts team member Wesley Ford on the official Xeneth blog. "Our glass solar panels have brought multiple industrial prototype technologies together to make one of the most efficient arrays the world has ever seen."
Reports have since surfaced that the Xenith is the fastest solar car in the world, but the team have been quick to play down these rumours.
"We believe that we have a strong chance of winning the 2011 World Solar Challenge. We have an incredibly efficient electric motor and we believe that our solar panels might break a world record for silicon panel efficiency, but everyone will have to wait until October before anyone can claim who has the fastest solar car ever," Ford said. (For what it's worth, the team is hoping to average speeds of around 80km per hour.)
The World Solar Challenge is a 2,000-mile race between Darwin and Adelaide, in which contestants must compete in a solar-powered car they have designed and built. It is held once every two years, with Technical Universities and Colleges from around the world frequently competing. Previous winners of the World Solar Challenge have included Australia, Japan, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
The Xenith will be shipped to Australia on August 18th, followed by five weeks of preparation time. The event is run over a single stage of 3000km, with the race starting on Sunday October 16th 2011. In all, 42 teams are expected to compete, including three teams from Australia.
You can see a video of the Xenith in action below: