New Zealand's Solar Car in the 2007 Panasonic World Solar Challenge

Driving Solar Powered from Bluff to Cape Reinga - December 2011


Tour start date moved to Saturday 3rd December - 11am

Solar Fern will start our NZ tour on SATURDAY!

The Waikato EV, the German Solar car, and several Christchurch electric cars will all be there.

The Wizzard of Christchurch will be doing a Sun Dance to help us on our way!

Come and check out the cars and see us off as we start our long awating NZ tour!

The NZ tour is ON!

Solar Fern will be touring NZ, from Christchurch to Invercargill, then Bluff to Cape Reinga.

Leg 1: Christchurch to Invercargill - 4 to 8 Decemebr 2011

Leg 2: Bluff to Cape Reinga - 9 to 15 December 2011

For the first leg, from Christchurch to Invercargill, we will be traveling with an electric car from Waikato University, and a German Solar Car from Bochum University. The Bochum solar car is driving from Auckland to Invercargill as part of a World Tour, the first car to ever circumnavigate the globe on solar power alone. We will be traveling around 150km each day, which will allow for any bad weather, and give us plenty of time to sort out any issues, and fine tune the Solar Fern for the record setting second leg.

For second leg, from Bluff to Cape Reinga we will be traveling as far as the sunshine will take us each day, attempting to set records, so our progress will be highly weather dependent. A rough outline of our estimated schedule is:

Day 1:  9th, Invercargill to Bluff, take the photos, then back to Invercargill, then continuing North on the inland route, passnig Queenstown, Cromwell, hopefully passing Tekapo as well.

Day 2: 10th, Carrying on via the inland road to Christchurch, perhaps making it to Kaikoura.

Day 3: 11th, The last few hundred km to Picton. We hope to spend some time in Piction charging our batteries from the solar panel in the afternoon.

Day 4: 12th, Ferry to Wellington. No public display.

Day 5: 13th, The longest day! With fully charged batteries and good sunshine we hope to travel over 500km in one day, maybe even 600km! We plan to start from Parliment buildings at 7am.

Day 6: 14th, Through Aukland, and onways into Northland, maybe even making it to the Cape today, if the weather and the car is just a little better than perfect!

Day 7: 15th. This is when we expect to make it Cape Reinga, if we don't make it the day before

But we may not stick to that, since we can't control the weather :) We'll update Facebook daily, and post regular position and ETA updates on Twitter as we go.

Check out Twitter to see when we will go through your town and come out to support us as we go by!

Photos from the race are now in the gallery!

At the track in Darwin

Solar Fern crosses the finish line

We made it!

Day by day Race Highlights
  • We did it!

  • Total distance travelled 2,256 km, including the final leg into Adelaide itself.

  • 12th position in Adventure class, out of 18 cars

  • 24th position overall, out of 37 cars

  • Top speed achieved during race: 110 kph (Speed limit in South Australia)

  • Typical cruise speed (limited by solar power): 60 kph

  • Lap time in Qualifying: 2:31 - 13th position out of 37 cars

  • Typical full sun solar power: 600W

  • 400W full sun power for the first 3 days until the solar trackers were set up properly.

  • Best solar power seen during race: 800W

  • Over half the entrants (19/37) did not finish the full distance, with many forced off the road due to a severe storm which swept through South Australia on Saturday.

Official Results

WSC Press Releases (including daily placings)

Solar Fern on 60 Minutes     Screened: Moday, 5th November 2007

TV3's 60 minutes program followed Solar Fern and two other non-solar NZ teams across Australia in the 2007 Panasonic World Solar Challenge. Their program was screened on Monday night and is now available on-line at TV3.

Unfortunately 60 Minutes were not able to be at the finish line on Sunday when we arrived.

Solar Fern finished in 12th position out of 19 in the Adventure class. Over half the cars did not complete the full distance in the 8 days allowed, and many were forced off the road during a severe storm on Saturday, including the Solar Fern.

Solar Fern on TV 3 News   Screened: Sunday, 28th October 2007

Watch the TV 3 News item on-line here: 

TV 3 News: Sunday 28 October 2007


Video of Solar Fern now on YouTube

Despite the rain on Sun-day we still managed to demo the Solar Fern to an enthusiastic crowd. A short video of the car at the event is now available on You Tube here

The solar Fern is now in transit to Australia, ready for the race, starting on the 21st of October.

The Solar Fern at our unveiling

Official Unveiling of the Solar Fern!

A&P Show Grounds - Sunday 23rd September - 1pm

Use entrance on Wigram Road

We've got Solar Panels! 27/8/2007

We are delighted to announce that Pipers Patent Attorneys, the current owner of the class winning 1993 Solar Kiwi, will be lending us the solar panels off their car. These will provide 1000W of solar power, enabling Solar Fern to cruise at around 75kph. They will be fitted smoothly around the gently curves off the Solar Fern, as a fixed array, instead of a tilting array like the design of the Solar Kiwi.

Tilting the array allowed the panel on the Solar Kiwi to be pointed directly at the sun all day, giving approximately 20% more average power than a fixed array. But this comes at the cost of greater aerodynamic drag, and poor stability in sidewinds and at high speed. This forces the driver to slow down or stop when conditions get bad. In fact the Solar Kiwi was actually picked up by a whirlwind and thrown off the road in the 1993 race!

Our streamlined, integrated design has only half the drag of a tilting panel design, and our wind-tunnel-proven aerodynamics allows the Solar Fern to actually speed up in crosswinds, while still being perfectly stable.

With half the drag, but only a 20% reduction in average power, and with no need to stop or slow down in bad weather, we expect to significantly out perform the class winning 1993 tilting panel design, even with the same solar panels!

By comparison the 1999 MIT car, Manta GTX, achieved a race time of 45 hours with less than 1000W. In 2005 the MIT car Tesseract achieved a race time of 40 hours, again with only 1000W (due to an accident which damaged their solar array), and the 2005 Belgian car, Umicar, achieved 47 hours with much less than 1000W (also the result of a damaged solar array). This year many cars will have only 6 m2 of solar cell area, reducing their power by as much as 30%.

The 1993 Solar Kiwi is on display at MOTAT in Auckland. The 1990 Solar Kiwi is also on display at the Wanaka Transport Museum.


The panels on the Solar Fern

1993 Solar Kiwi

We're almost there!

With only a few weeks to go until our car is shipped to Australia we are in the final stages of preparing the car ready for the race. We are now fundraising for the many unavoidable and significant logistical costs of competing in the race. Even with individual team members covering their own costs, there are still many other costs to cover including insurance, port handling fees, customs clearance fees, support vehicles, equipment, spare parts and fuel for the support vehicles! We will be hundreds of kilometers away from any shop or even water and electricity, so we must carry everything with us: food, camping gear, a generator, a welder, tools, electronic test gear, weather equipment, computers, and spare parts. Races can be won or lost on the strength of a teams logistical support.

We need your support to be at our best in the 2007 Panasonic World Solar Challenge.

All supporters club members get a poster, certificate, and their name on the car. We've got group and family membership packages, and packages for business supporters to get a small name or logo on back of the car somewhere.

For $1,000 a business supporter can get a business card size logo on the car, and over $2,000 gets your company much larger spaces on the car and logos on our poster and website.

See our latest sponsorship prospectus or supporters club page for more details.

The body shell is done and ready for painting!

It's been a long road, but finally the body shell is done and fitted to the chassis. There's plenty of new photos in the gallery of the body work under construction. We're finishing off the final details of the join on the leading edge and the indicators and brake lights. Then we paint it!

The bodywork has come out pretty light, with a total weight of under 40kg, yet it's still remarkably strong.

Many thanks to our composite sponsors Synthepol, Adhesive Technologies, and High Modulus. Their commitment to our project has made it the success that it is!

Defond sponsors Solar Fern's lithium polymer batteries

Contract manufacturers Defond have joined our team as battery sponsors. This has allowed us to buy the 192 lithium polymer battery packs that make up our high performance battery system.

Our new battery pack will give us a range of over 300km on a single charge, without any power from the solar panels, and more importantly, it will allow us to manage the varying power requirements as we drive up hills and as the solar power varies with the weather and throughout the day.

We charge the batteries from the solar panels whenever the car is stopped or when we are driving slowly through towns. Then we use the extra charge when we need more power than the solar panels can provide by themselves.

Each 3 cell pack is 11.1V and 2.15Ah and gives access to all 3 internal cells. They will be wired into a matrix of 16 cells in parallel by 36 cells in series (12 packs in series), giving a nominal voltage of 133V.


One of our 192 batteries

Hypacoustic joins the team

Many thanks to our latest sponsor Arvus Group, devlopers of the new Hypacoustic™ cinema sound system, soon to be opening in cinemas throughout New Zealand and Australia.

We are proud to have the support of a cutting edge New Zealand technology company like Arvus.

MSC shipping to carry Solar Fern to Australia

Many thanks to MSC shipping, who are providing container services to and from Adelaide for the Solar Fern, and our equipment and a support vehicle.

Shipping date: 27th September 2007

More images in the photo gallery

Solar Fern achieves credible top speed - even before the low drag body shell is fitted

Our wind tunnel tested, ultra low drag bodyshell will have 6 times less drag than the open framework without the body shell, and 10 times less drag than a typical small car, yet our powerfull electric motor has still pushed the car to an impressive 72 kph in testing.

With the bodyshell fitted, the same power will push the Solar Fern to over 120 kph, or climb the steepest hill in the race at a steady 70 kph.

And this is only limited by the cheap lead batteries we are using in testing. Our new Lithium batteries will easilly double the power and save 90kg of weight - but we need your support to get them!

[Batteries are required in solar cars to climb hills and keep going when the sun is not strong. - We charge them from the solar panels whenever we stop or when the sun is strong.]

Jeanette Fitzsimons test drives Solar Fern

Jeanette Fitzsimons, co-leader of the NZ Greens Party, visited Solar Fern in April as part of the Green Party's Climate Defence Tour. The Green Party Co-leaders have been touring the country during April and June urging people to push the Government on climate change.

NZ tour postponed until after the World Solar Challenge

Financial pressures have meant that work on the car has been more labour intensive than we had planned, as we are having to do everything the hard way to save money. Unfortunately this has meant that the car will not be ready for a tour in July, and we need to focus on finishing the car for the race. Even small donations will make a big difference when it comes to getting the job done on time. Join our supporters club and help us get there!

The tour will now take place after the World Solar Challenge, in early 2008. Date yet to be determined.

Composite Sponsors Secure Materials For Body Shell

Solar Fern Racing is delighted to announce the support of High Modulus, Adhesive Technologies and Synthepol as official suppliers of composite materials and resins. This allows us to complete our sleek aerodynamic body shell. The body shell fits around our space frame chassis, reducing aerodynamics drag to one tenth of the drag of a normal road car, while providing the greatest area for our solar panels that is allowed under the race regulations.
The "plug" for the main body shell is now completed, and we are ready to make the mould for the final carbon fibre body shell. The plug is a solid block of foam and fibreglass, carefully shaped and polished to represent the final shape of the car. To make the final body shell we must first make a mould from the plug, then carefully lay the carbon fibre and lightweight nomex cores into the mould to get the lightest and strongest possible shell. This plug is for the sides and underside of the car, which has the most complex shapes. The top of the car is much simpler, and will be a simple framework that the solar panels are attached to. We also need smaller moulds for the wheel spats and canopy.

Plug for the under side body shell

More photos in our photo gallery

60 Minutes to follow Solar Fern in World Solar Challenge

Solar Fern Racing is pleased to announce that TV3's 60 minutes program will be following the Solar Fern through the Australian outback during the 2007 World Solar Challenge.

Solar Fern on show at the Sustainability Expo

Saturday & Sunday 27th & 28th January 2007 - Rolleston Community Center - Rolleston Drive

Solar Fern on TV One News  16 Januray 2007


Video of the article can be found on the TVNZ website here

Solar Fern in New Zealand Geographic    November - December 2006 Issue

Solar Fern on Front page of "The Press" motoring section

"Drive" section : "The Press" 14-15 October 2006

Solar Fern Media Launch and Public Display

Saturday 7th October 2006 - Media launch - Canterbury Agricultural Show Grounds - Invitation only event

The official project media launch. Inviting media, supporters and potential sponsors. Track testing and car display, media photo opportunities etc. Contact for an invitation.

Sunday 15th October 2006 10am - 2pm - Public Display - Canterbury Agricultural Show Grounds - Open to the public

Displayed in association with the KiwiHPVHuman Powered Challenge. Solar fern racing will be displaying the car to the general public. Come and have a look!

Solar Fern is Rolling!  [15/8/6]

Solar Fern Racing has achieved the first big milestone:

The rolling chassis!

We're one year and two months out from race day, and Solar Fern is rolling! But this is only the beginning, and there's plenty more to do. Over the next few weeks we will finish the steering and suspension and wire up the motor and batteries, so we can drive Solar Fern for the very first time!

Then we PARTY!

At this very early stage our chassis is just the bare bones of what is yet to come. We need huge support to bring Solar Fern up to the class winning standard we aim to achieve. We will soon start work on our composite bodyshell, and we'll need proper racing wheels (bike wheels won't be good enough for the race!), and top quality breaks and shocks, lithium batteries, electrical systems, and of course the solar array! Then we need to get it all to Australia with all the support crew, equipment, and spare parts. Help us out by joining our supporters club and making a donation!

Huge thanks to our sponsors, especially Davinci Communications, Thompson Aeronautical, Sapphire Dynamics, and Woodly's Aircraft Services whose assistance and contributions have be invaluable in achieving this milestone.

Now more than ever, we need your support to make Solar Fern the best that it can be, and to make New Zealand proud!

Join our supporters club or check out how your business can benefit from sponsoring the Solar Fern.

Check out our rolling chassis in our photo gallery

Model solar car kits and solar construction kits are available NOW!

Working model solar car kits and solar powered construction kits are available now!


Solar Fern confirms Adventure class

We are please to confirm that we will be entering the Adventure Class in the 2007 Panasonic World Solar Challenge. Construction of our ISF 5000 vehicle for the Adventure Class continues.