In 1987, General Motors won the first World Solar Challenge in Australia. Its record-setting car, Sunraycer, finished the race more than two days ahead (600+ miles) of its closest competitor. Today, Sunraycer continues to take center stage, at the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. Now, it lend's its name to the largest U.S. competition for solar-powered vehicles - Sunrayce.


In July 1990, 32 teams of some of North America's brightest college students took to the road in solar-powered vehicles they had built during the previous year and a half. The GM Sunrayce USA route covered more than 1,800 miles, from Florida to Michigan. Three of the top finishers won a trip to Australia in November to compete in the 1990 world solar challenge.



Sunraycer charging her batteries - this is allowed



A solar car is necessarily an electric car, because it runs on electricity generated by solar heat.  The first electrical carriage was built and run in 1838 in Edinburgh, by one Robert Davidson, and a few years later an American named M.B.Farmer was running one.  In fact, the first auto to break the 100 km/h 'barrier' was an electrically-driven torpedo-shaped LaJamais Contente (The Never Content) which Belgian Camille Jenatzy pushed to a new world land speed record of 105.904 km/h (65.79 mph) on April 29, 1899.  But the internal combustion engine was starting to demonstrate a superiority that lasts until this day, as innovative technology continues to refine this noble concept.

Then, 88 years later, on October 31, 1987, the solar-charged, electric-powered General Motors Sunraycer sprinted at 113 km/h (70.2 mph) on the highway leading south from the far north Australian city of Darwin.  what it was doing Down Under is the story of this book.


It is the story of a highly diverse group of people brought together by the common urge to push outwards the envelope of known technology.  there had been solar car races before.  The first was the 1985 Tour de Sol in Switzerland, over 229 miles, then the second in 1986, over 237 miles.  But the Australian race was 1950 miles across the world's oldest continent.  While Daimler-Benz had built its Solarmobile to win the first Swiss race, the technology used would be outmoded instantly by what was planned by the General Motors group of scientists, technicians, designers, engineers and racers for the beautiful jewel called Sunraycer.


This book is the story of that Great Adventure, an operation that was planned an executed with dazzling swiftness inside an excrutiatingly-tight timetable, an incredible achievement in itself within the framework of so vast a business organization.

It is the story of a race that was planned and won by an operation that in its intensity of purpose and meticulousness of detail rivaled that of a NASA space mission.  And there were more than a few elements of aerospace in what happened across that huge continent.  That is why in this book we refer to the GM team members as 'astronauts of the sun'.  This is their story, and the story of an amazing automobile.



Sunraycer charging her batteries - this is allowed



The Sunraycer will stand always as a symbol that America in general, and General Motors in particular, is still in the forefront of innovative and creative thinking.  The country that put the world on wheels hasn't forgotten how to lead.


Sunraycer is a product of the Australian-based Chevron Publishing Group.  The country's largest automotive and motor racing book and magazine publisher, the group also produces books on other subjects.  It has set new standards of quality and excellence in Australian books, and as such, was a worthy partner for the GM team in this endeavor.





After GM's Sunraycer won the Australian race - it wasn't even a close race, the Sunraycer crossed the finish line 2½ days before the second place racer. This car heavily inspired the EV1 that is currently available. The Impact was debuted ant the 1990 Los Angeles Auto Show. This was the first prototype for the EV1. Twelve prototypes and 23 new patents later, the first EV1 rolled of the assembly line at the Lansing Craft Centre in November of 1996. The name Impact was dropped, probably because the term doesn't sound safe. The car featured a 0.19 drag coefficient making it one of the slickest cars ever. The car can even out run the Mazda Miata, no small feat considering that electric cars are thought of as slow. In a twist of irony, the EV1 sports the 100-year-old UL mark. Underwriters Laboratories is the most widely accepted certification for electronic gear. Both the charging system and car carry the mark. Take a careful look at the EV1 on this page, it is the wave of the future.


EV1 is by no means the first electric car on the U.S. mainland, it is however one of the best conceived yet. Back at the last turn of the century, electricity powered more "horseless carriages" than gasoline. As was mentioned on the Oldsmobile page, had a fire not destroyed Ransom Olds plant that produced electric cars, we might all be driving electric vehicles today. Instead only a select few drive EV1's in some cities in Arizona and California. Back in those early years electric cars were popular because they didn't have to be hand cranked. They were also quiet and didn't smell bad. These were big benefits in those days. However history saw to it that the internal combustion engine won out and that is what more than 99.999999% of the population drive. GM has toyed with electric cars for the last few decades on and off. When the gas crisis hit the U.S. in the early seventies and the emission controls started to become a hot topic is when GM started to carefully look at electric cars. This was in addition to other form of propulsion. However it was decided that the technology was to new to be efficient enough for public consumption. So the downsizing projects were under way to make the gas powered cars lighter and more efficient. This worked well but did not solve all of the problems, so research continued on for electric vehicles. 

Because the EV1's development was not headed by any one division the car simply carries the GM badge. They are leased out of a select number of Saturn dealerships in Arizona and California only. The cars are very unique so they are easy to spot when you can find one. They look like what the Geo Storm would probably look like had the car been updated instead of discontinued. The rear of the car tapers quite a bit. The taillights look like they were plucked from a Jaguar. The front resembled the current Oldsmobile theme except more aerodynamic. The EV1 was one slick ride! The last EV1 was made in 2000. The more recent developement of hybird electric and fuel in cars probably brought the production to a halt. The cheaper cost of these alternatives, and the much longer range makes them much more attractive to buyers.


Congratulations to the team for a job well done and for advancing the cause of clean, sustainable, electric transportation.



The Website is sponsored by Solar Cola





Aristotle Uni of Thessaloniki, Helios


Faculty of Engineering

Arizona Solar Racing Team - USA

Arizona Solar Racing Team

Auburn University

Sol of Auburn

Sol of Auburn

Aurora Team, Australia


Aurora Vehicle Association

Bochum Solar Car Team

Das SolarCar der Fachhochschule

California Poly S University

SLO Burn  Sidewinder

San Luis Obispo

Clarkson Uni Solar Car Team, USA

The Solar Knights

Delft University - Holland

NUNA I & II 2003

Dell Winston School

The Hunter

Solar Car Challenge

Desert Rose, Northern Territory Uni


Drexel SunDragon Home Page

École de technologie supérieure Quebec

Eclipse V (5)

Éclipse Vehicular Solaire 

École Polytechnique de Montréal


Eko-Auto  Poland


Electron Analytic Corporation

Dark Horse

EAC Skunkworks

George Washington University

George Washington Uni Solar Car

Georgia Institute of Technology

Solar Jackets

Solar Jackets

Heliodet, Germany


Heliodet, Solar Car Team

Helios - Lille, France

Hélios IV

Hautes Etudes d'Ingénieur

Honda Car Company


Illinois State University

Surya, Ratha, Mercury

Illinois State University Team

Iowa State University


Team PrISUm

Jonasun  Japan


Solar Car Paviion

Kansas State University


Solar Car Racing Team

Los Altos Academy of Engineering

Los Altos Solar Car Team

Massachusetts Institute of Technology



McGill University Monteal, Canada


Team iSun

McMaster University


McMaster Uni Solar Car Project

Messiah College Grantham, Penns

Genesis II

Genesis II Solar Racing Team

Michigan State University


Solar Racing Team

Michigan Technological University

Solar Car Team

Minnesota S Uni-Mankato/Winona S Uni

Minnesota Solar Car Team

North Dakota State University

The Double Deuce

Sunsetters - Solar Race Team

Northwestern University


Northwestern University

Nuon Solar Team, Netherlands

Nuon 3

Het Nuon Solar Team

Osaka Sangyo University, Japan

OSU model S

Solar Car Team

Prairie View A&M University


Sun Panthers

Principia College

RA 6

Principia College Solar Car Team

Purdue University


Purdue University Solar Racing

Queen's University Canada

Radiance  Gemini

Queen's Solar Vehicle Team

Red River College 

Red River Raycer

Red River College Solar Car Team

Rice University

Rice University

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

Rose-Hulman Solar Car Team

Southern Illinois Uni Edwardsville

Cougar Cruiser

Southern Illinois University

South Bank University, UK

Mad Dog

South Bank Mad Dog Team

South Dakota School Mines & Tech

Solar Motion

South Dakota Solar Motion Team

Southern Taiwan University Tech

Southern Taiwan Solar Team

Stanford University


Stanford Solar Car Project

Tamagawa University - Japan

Tamagawa Solar Challenge Project

Team Futura, Italy


Team Futura

Team SunLake - Japan

Phaethon model

Team SunLake TOYOBO

Texas A&M University

Columbia Sunraycer

Texas A&M Motorsports Team

The Power of One  - Toronto


The Xof1 solar car team

Tufts University


Nerd Girls

University of Alberta

University of Alberta Team

University of Arizona


Solar Racing Team

University of Calgary


UC Calgary Solar Car Team

University of California-Berkeley


California Calsol Team

University of Kansas

Solution, CATalyst

KSU Solar Car Racing Team

University of Kentucky

Gato del Sol II

Solar Car Team

University of Massachusetts 

Spirit of Mass 413

Lowell Solar Racing Team

University of Michigan


University of Michigan

University of Minnesota

Borealis III

U of M Solar Vehicle Project

University of Missouri Columbia

Suntiger VI

The Mizzou Solar Car Project

University of Missouri Rolla

Solar Miner V

Solar Minor Car Team 

University of North Dakota

Subzero 3

Team SubZero

University of Ontario Institute of Tech

UOI Solar Vehicle Team

Uni of New South Wales SCR Team

UNSW Sunswift III

New South Wales SCR Team

University of Patras, Hermes

Solar Car Team

University of Pennsylvania


Penn Solar Racing

University of Queensland


Queensland Solar Team

University of South Australia


SA Solar Car Consortium

University of Texas at Austin

Solar Steer

Solar Vehicles Team

University of Texas at El Paso



University of Toronto

Blue Sky

Blue Sky Solar Racing

University of Toulouse


Heliotrope Solar Car Team

University of Utah 


Vehicle Design Team Utah

University of Virginia


UVa Solar Car Team

University of Waterloo

Midnight Sun VIII

Midnight Sun Solar Race Team

University of Western Ontario


Sunstang USP Solar Car Team

USP Solar Car Team

USP Solar Car Team

Western Michigan University

Sunseeker 05

W Michigan Solar Car Team

Yale University

The John Lee

Team Lux



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