Engineering students at UC Berkeley recently showcased a slick solar race car clad in photovoltaic panels that looks for all the world like UFO hovering a few feet over the earth. Dubbed the GoldRush, the vehicle is completely powered by the sun’s rays and is capable of hitting an impressive top speed of 50 miles per hour without using a single drop of gas. I recently had a chance to catch up with the sleek solar vehicle at the Marin County Fair and was able to snap some first hand photos – hit the jump for more!

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When I caught up with the GoldRush at last weekend’s Marin County Fair, it was soaking up the sun’s rays alongside a set of other electric vehicles at the Fair’s Electric Wheels Car Show. As the exhibit’s only car completely powered by the sun, the GoldRush’s eye-catching photovoltaic array and streamlined space-age curves turned just as many heads as the svelte Tesla Roadster parked a few paces away.

In designing the GoldRush the students decided to go with a three-wheeled design that kept the vehicle’s weight to a minimum. The car’s solar panel studded shell is composed of lightweight and super strong Kevlar and Nomex honeycomb, and the chassis is constructed from chromoly steel. As an ultra-efficient racing vehicle, the GoldRush has just enough space for a single rider seated upright.

The vehicle is the latest in a series of six solar racing vehicles developed by UC Berkeley’s Calsol program since its formation in 1990. The team has competed in a wide range of racing events including the North American Solar Challenge, the Formula Sun Grand Prix, and the World Solar Challenge. We wish them the best of luck as they continue to race towards a brighter, more sustainable future.

+ Calsol

Fair Photos by Mike Chino