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'The Quiet Achiever’ was the first vehicle to be driven across a continent using only solar energy. In the summer of 1982–83, adventurer Hans Tholstrup drove the vehicle more than 4,084 kilometres across Australia, from Perth to Sydney.

A solar-powered vehicle clad in a white fibreglass, featuring a large flat rectangular array of solar panels mounted on the roof, bicycle fittings including wheels and frame to the interior, and the text

The Quiet Achiever solar car

World Solar Challenge

One of the enduring legacies of the Solar Trek journey is the World Solar Challenge. It grew out of the earlier event and brings together some of the brightest minds from around the world to compete in a solar powered race across Australia every 2 years. It started in 1987 with 13 entrants from 5 countries and in 2019 attracted 53 teams from 24 countries.

Renamed the World Solar Challenge in 2013, the international event aims to promote research into solar powered technologies. Competitors drive 3,000 kilometres on a course from Darwin to Adelaide, in 3 different classes.

Hans Tholstrup poses next to solar panel cells. - click to view larger image

Hans Tholstrup

Hans Tholstrup is a Danish-born Australian adventurer. The Solar Trek challenge was not his first large-scale adventure. In 1970, Tholstrup circumnavigated Australia in a 4.9-metre speedboat. His other adventures include:

  • piloting a single engine aircraft solo around the world
  • crossing Bass Strait in a Mini-Moke strapped to a rubber dinghy
  • riding a motorcycle around the world in 27 days
  • driving from the northern most point of Europe to the southern tip of Africa
  • crossing the north Atlantic in a speedboat.

Tholstrup was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2008. He received the Australian Geographic's Lifetime of Adventure award in 2014.

Journeys across Australia

The Museum acquired The Quiet Achiever in 1984. It is usually stored alongside the Bean car of Francis Birtles. Birtles' historic 1912 journey across Australian continent in a motor vehicle provided some of the inspiration for Tholstrup’s Solar Trek adventure in 1982.

The transcontinental nature of the journey is a central theme among feats and events of great significance to the nation. Australia’s First Peoples developed and maintained social connections and trade routes on a transcontinental scale.

The construction of the Overland Telegraph line and the Trans-Australian Railway were monumental feats of engineering that spanned the continent. The successful crossing of the continent by John McDouall Stuart is recognised as an achievement. The tragedy of Burke and Wills and the failed attempt by Ludwig Leichhardt to traverse the continent live equally large in Australia’s collective memory.

In our collection

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

References

An epic journey revisited on the Museum’s People and the Environment blog

World Solar Challenge

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