Page last updated at 06:02 GMT, Wednesday, 24 June 2009 07:02 UK

Boy test drives uni's solar car

Finnbar Sparey-Taylor was needed to test the model because no-one else was small enough to fit behind the controls

Not every father would hand over the keys to his brand new car for his son to test drive, especially when he's only six years old.

But Finnbar Sparey-Taylor was just the perfect size to take the controls of a scaled-down prototype of a solar-powered car, built by a university.

Finnbar tested Nos Gwawr II on the playground at his school in Wrexham.

Father Graham, a lecturer at Glyndwr University, was at his side, although the car only moved at walking speed.

It is a £700 version of an off-the-shelf design the group hope will top 100mph in tests next year.

Dr Sparey-Taylor, who lectures in micro- and nano-technologies, said the team from the university's performance car technology group aimed to build something that was an electric car first and a solar car second.

It is a prototype of the team's entry into next year's North American Solar Challenge, a 2,400-mile (3,850 km) rally from Texas to Alberta in Canada.

Finnbar Sparey-Taylor and the Nos Gwawr II
He's got the opportunity to play with the technology of the future that other kids haven't got
Dr Graham Sparey-Taylor

In 2007, the team competed in a solar challenge in Australia that saw their Gwawr Cymru solar car reach 60 mph.

The knee-high machine to be driven by Finnbar, is a half-length model of the car to be launched in September.

In addition to being used for testing aerodynamics, the model will be used for both marketing and raising awareness in schools and around Wales.

Dr Sparey-Taylor said the team's design philosophy was that parts were to be sourced from within Wales where possible, and recycled where feasible.

The car will have two body designs, an aerodynamic design for racing and a smaller "commuter mode".

He said: "We're saying it is possible to buy these things off the shelf. We can build a viable solar car within the Welsh borders.

"It is also another outlet for students' design skills."

The 2.2m (7ft)-long car has a 100-watt motor and can travel at walking pace, said Dr Sparey-Taylor.

He said: "It's could be dangerous to put anything in that would make it run any faster.

"Finnbar may be my son but he's got the opportunity to play with the technology of the future that other kids haven't got.

"He has driven the original Gwawr car, albeit with help.

"He is a bit nervous but the does rather enjoy it. It's got to be his choice."

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