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National Museum of Australia

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BP Solar Trek vehicle known as the 'The Quiet Achiever'

1988.0126.0001

BP Solar Trek vehicle known as the 'The Quiet Achiever'

Object information

Description

The vehicle was handbuilt by Larry and Garry Perkins in Melbourne at a cost of $15,000, and it was driven from Perth to Sydney, 4084kms, in 172hrs driving time at an average of approximately 30km/h.

Physical description

The 'B.P' Solar Trek vehicle known as the 'The Quiet Achiever'. A handbuilt solar-powered vehicle that is clad in a white fibreglass faring or body, which has a large curved window in the front and windows along the sides, mounted to a tubular steel framework. 'SOLAR TREK' is printed in green below the windscreen on both sides near the front. A large flat rectangular array of solar panels is mounted on an aluminium frame and forms a table-like roof that sits on top of the body. It is composed of two adjoining rows of 10 36-cell, 100 x 40cm silicon solar modules that combined give the roof a large surface area. The undercarriage consists of four specially-designed bicycle wheels that have aluminium rims and stainless steel spokes, and they are fitted with Michelin tyres. Power generated by the photo-voltaic solar modules is stored in two conventional 12-volt automotive batteries that are connected in parallel, and they provide power to a 24-volt one-horsepower DC electric motor. A four-speed chain transmission connects the electric motor to a drive sprocket on the left rear wheel. The roof is hinged to the right side of the chassis to provide access to the driver's compartment, where the driver lies in a reclined position with the two batteries side by side on the front floor in front of his feet. The spool-and-cable steering is operated by hand or foot, and conventional bicycle brake calipers brake the back wheels. The compartment is fitted with an amp-meter, digital speedometer, and a power on/off switch.

Statement of significance

This collection consists of a hand built solar-powered vehicle known as 'The Quiet Achiever' which, in January 1983, became the first solar-powered car to cross the Australian continent. Developed by Hans Tholstrup, designed and engineered by Melbourne-based brothers, Larry and Garry Perkins, the car was donated to the Museum by British Petroleum (BP) Australia, whose subsidiary, BP Solar Australia, had provided sponsorship and support for the project. BP Solar was, until late 2011, the leading marketer of solar power systems in Australia, and one of the largest in the world.

The Quiet Achiever's epic 4130 kilometre journey, which began at Scarborough Beach, Perth, took 173 hours and 15 minutes at an average speed of 23.8 kilometres (15 miles) per hour, while its starting date, 19 December 1982, was chosen by Tholstrup to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the first crossing of Australia by a motor car - when Frances Birtle drove a Brush car from Fremantle to Sydney, in 28 days. The route followed the main transcontinental highways, finishing at the Sydney Opera House on 7 January 1983. After receiving overwhelming support from people along its route, The Quiet Achiever, or the 'bathtub on wheels' as it became known, approached its destination under police escort, along a route lined by thousands of people. As the car crossed the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the toll attendant removed the twenty cent piece which Hans Tholstrup had taped under the solar panels - the only cost incurred by The Quiet Achiever during its long voyage. At the Opera House, the vehicle and its crew were welcomed by Senator John Carrick (Minister for National Development and Energy) accompanied by a large, enthusiastic crowd of well-wishers. Following this welcome, Hans Tholstrup ceremoniously poured a bottle of Indian Ocean water, handed to him at the start of the journey by West Australian Premier, Ray O'Connor, into Sydney Harbour. The gesture symbolised the joining of two great oceans by solar power for which Australia's fledgling support has grown considerably from the late 1940s. Since The Quiet Achiever's remarkable transcontinental crossing, the prospect of global climate change, coupled with the recognised potential for the sun to supply the world's energy needs, has seen solar power develop rapidly as an alternative energy source in Australia and around the world.

Object information

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