Auto-UX Partners with UNSW Sunswift Racing

Auto-UX Partners with UNSW Sunswift Racing

Auto-UX has partnered with UNSW Sunswift Racing to help drive Australian homegrown innovation in the development of environmentally sustainable motor vehicle technologies.

Sunswift Professor of Practice Richard Hopkins, and Auto-UX CEO Greg Parkes, share their thoughts on how the partnership came together and what it means for innovation in 2024.

“It’s quite clear that Auto-UX and UNSW Sunswift Racing have shared values. The world has never seen this level of innovation in the automotive industry. The cars we drive today will radically change in the years to come. The industry will have to change to accommodate this paradigm shift. Auto-UX and UNSW Sunswift Racing want to be a part of this change. Not just followers but leaders and pathfinders for others.”
Richard Hopkins, Professor of Practice UNSW Sunswift Racing 

Greg Parkes, CEO Auto-UX, had this to say, “We’re proud to support UNSW Sunswift Racing and are excited to see what innovations they can achieve this year. It’s not just about winning solar challenge races, although that is really cool. Auto-UX is invested in supporting the young talent of Australia to develop environmentally responsible technologies that can be adopted on a global scale for our future generations.”

 

What is Sunswift All About?

RH: ‘Sunswift’, as it was called at the start (the ‘Racing’ was added quite recently), was formed back in 1996 by a small team of electrical PhD students and academics who, over a few beers thought it would be a good idea to compete in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge (BWSC). The BWSC is a race for solar / electric (SEV) cars. It starts in Darwin and finishes 6 days later and 3010kms later in Adelaide.

The World Solar Challenge was first competed back in 1987 and back then the likes of General Motors and Honda had entries. An opportunity for these motoring giants to flex their innovation muscles. As time past it switched to privateers and universities and that’s what makes up the entries today. One thing that hasn’t changed is the focus on innovation and human and technological endeavour.

Sunswift’s first car Sunswift I (one), was purchased from another team but with lots of in-house improvements and enhancements and had its first race in 1996. The team finished a respectable 9th out of a global field of 46.

Sunswift IV in the 2009 Global Green Challenge from Darwin to Adelaide

Since the team’s start back in 1996, the operating model has changed from PhD student and academic to predominantly undergrad and from extra-curricular project to what it is today, a project run by students embedded in the curriculum as a course, where the team get marks and units of credit towards their degree for all their hard work, research, and contribution.
Since that start we have built 7 cars and competed in 11 BWSC’s.

In addition to competing in this epic race, my focus has always been on driving Education and Innovation in the automotive space and developing young talent to be the best that they can be, and never is that more apparent than in our UNSW Sunswift Racing Team today. We’re reshaping what automotive technology looks like for future generations.

 

2023 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge Win for Sunswift

RH: “For UNSW Sunswift Racing, 2023 was a very special year.

The team had already raised the bar at the end of 2022 by becoming the Guinness World Record holders for ‘The Fastest Electric Vehicle over 1000km on a single battery charge’.
2023 was a Bridgestone World Solar Challenge year. The event was cancelled in 2021 due to COVID so teams from around the world were very excited to come to Australia and compete once again.

Sunswift 7

In 2019 Sunswift finished 2nd, their best result since 1996. I’m not a big fan of finishing second so victory was the only option. We competed with Sunswift 7, the team’s latest creation and the same car that claimed the Guinness World Record only months earlier.

For me it’s fascinating coming from Formula One (more on that here) where budgets are huge, and teams employ over 1000 dedicated professional staff, and moving to a university team of just under 100 undergrad engineering students who not that long ago were at high school.

Over the past 2 or 3 years this is a project that has really come of age. Profile, brand, credibility, and achievement has made it globally quite unique in the way that we innovate, collaborate, and educate tomorrow’s leaders.

Red Bull F1 and UNSW Sunswift Racing are arguably worlds apart yet share so much in common and for me there is very little difference. It’s about creating those efficiencies, common goals and allowing everyone in the team to own their autonomy. I am really only there to assist the students to achieve what they may not realise they can achieve on their own. With this approach, everyone’s a winner.

The Bridgestone World Solar Challenge is 6 days of intense competition from Darwin to Adelaide travelling along the Stuart highway. It’s like Bathurst, Monaco, Le Mans and the Indy 500 all rolled in to one, but you are doing it with novices.

The competition was strong, conditions weren’t great. Not everything went smoothly but the race team of Australia’s finest young stars managed to win the 2023 BWSC for the very first time. The first time for UNSW and the first time since 1987 that an Australian team has won this category.

Honestly, this result is up there with anything I achieved in my 28 years of Formula One. Incredible.”

 

Sunswift Raising the Bar in 2024 & Beyond

RH: “Each success, whether it be a world record, a competition win, or indeed the team achieving new levels of performance, reliability, or safety, helps the team grow and scale to create new ambitions for itself.

The Bridgestone World Solar Challenge has always been the team’s bread and butter. After the cancellation of the 2019 event, just like the rest of the world, COVID gave us time to reflect. And that’s what I did, and that’s what the team did.

We realised that there was much more opportunity for the team than just this one event and the odd Guinness World Record…. as incredible as these achievements are.

The regulations of the BWSC need a huge update. In my opinion they don’t encourage or indeed allow innovation in line with the world we live in. So, the team decided that the next car to be created would not necessarily ‘comply’ with this set of regulations. A brave move, but one where we can now totally control the outcome.

Sunswift 7 was a result of over $1M of collaborative industry investment from some incredible global organisations that are in partnership with the project. Not just financial investment but time, knowledge, and experience.

This year, we start work on Sunswift 8, a car for the future. It may cost more to produce but it will be a vehicle that will truly asks the industry some questions about future mobility and the technology that will take us there.

Sunswift 8 – A Car for the Future

Sunswift 8 will be designed to be road legal, and it will have multiple energy sources that power it. It will be a showcase of world firsts. We can do this largely due to the freedom we have and because our team is made up of some of the brightest young minds in Australia.

Sunswift 8 is currently in design. The team is working hard in our new state-of-the-art workshop on the UNSW campus in Sydney for a launch in the first quarter of 2025. Watch this space.”

Sunswift & Auto-UX Working Together

 

“Richard and I have worked together on some interesting automotive-themed projects in years gone by. Since then, I have watched with interest his early work with Sunswift and was hugely impressed with their incredible win of the 2023 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. When Nathaniel Mak and I founded Auto-UX last year with a vision to disrupt the novated leasing sector through technology-led innovation I knew there was a synergy between our visions. We’re proud to support UNSW Sunswift Racing and eagerly anticipate the production of Sunswift 8.” Greg Parkes, CEO Auto-UX

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