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This Australian Startup Is Building A Solar Car That Runs Indefinitely

Keep driving as long as the sun keeps shining.

The Immortus electric vehicle comes with the ultimate range-extending capability: the sun. Unlike other EVs, you don’t have to carry extra batteries if you want to go further. You just make sure the rooftop solar panels are working.

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The car–or, at least, the promise of a car, because it’s still just a concept–comes from EVX, a startup in Melbourne, Australia. It has 75 square feet of solar PV paneling and goes from 0 to 60 mph in about seven seconds. Once charged from a wall socket, it will run continuously as long as you drive consistently at 37 mph. Between 50 to 90 mph, the range is down to a mere 340 miles, says CEO Barry Nguyen.

EVX is in its early stages, but the underlying solar technology has been in development for decades. The company grew out of a student project at Swinburne University of Technology, which competes in the high-end World Solar Challenge, a race for solar cars from around the world.

“We’re not trying to be a Tesla because that would require a lot of money just to get the car onto the road,” says Nguyen. “Because the car will be very expensive to make, we make the car into a technology platform, using technologies that make up a solar car.”

For example, EVX isn’t developing things like batteries, steering wheels, or carbon fiber chassis, because you can already buy good ones. Instead, it’s focusing on specific parts: like an air-cooled battery box and shock absorbers that capture energy as the car bumps along the road. EVX engineers have to finish work on the car’s exterior, though there are plenty of renderings of what it will look like. “Our resources have mostly been put into developing the technology itself rather than showing the external features of the car,” Nguyen says.

EVX plans to build and sell 100 Immortus units to wealthy people (it will be charging $370,000). At the same time, it wants to license its technology and sell hybrid retrofit kits so people can do their own conversions from other vehicles. “We see the solar car as a viable business in itself, but the actual attraction to investors are in things like the hybrid kit,” Nguyen says.

For now anyway. EVX is currently looking for funding and still deciding whether to base itself in Melbourne or California. Melbourne is home, but California has a lot more of high-worth early-adopters, the kind of people who might take a nearly half-million-dollar chance on a unproven solar car.

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About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.

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