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Wednesday, 25 August, 1999, 14:12 GMT 15:12 UK
Mad dog heads for the Sun
Their best yet, say South Bank
It cost 50,000, has a top speed of just 93 kilometres per hour (58 mph) and there is nowhere to put the shopping. But the fuel economy is quite remarkable.

The race takes several days to complete
This is Mad Dog 3, the UK's entry in next month's World Solar Challenge in Australia.

The car was developed by engineers and students at London's South Bank University. It uses satellite-grade solar cells which can generate up to 1200 watts of electricity.

The cells are black - rather than the more usual blue - due to an anti-reflective coating which traps the sunlight.

"To get a good solar car, you have to get the overall package right," says Dr Mike Duke, South Bank's senior lecturer in Engineering Systems and Design. "You have to have good solar cells, good aerodynamics, and good batteries - it's a bit of everything."

Straight line speed

Mad Dog 3 follows on from two previous models developed on the university's computer-aided design (Cad) facilities. The team believe the vehicle is their best effort yet in terms of efficiency, strength and resilience.

"It is nothing like driving a normal road car," says Mad Dog 3 driver Dr Andrew Shacklock. "You've got very few controls: A main throttle control, a steering wheel and a brake.

There are few controls in the cockpit
"There are no gears because it is an electric vehicle and most of the time you are going in a straight line."

Mad Dog faces stiff competition in the famous race that runs 3,010 km (1,870 miles) from Darwin in the north of Australia to Adelaide on the southern coast.

Although the race is open to all, it has become dominated by multi-million pound entries from major motor manufacturers like Honda. The race needs several drivers as it takes up to seven days to complete with temperatures in the cockpit reaching 40 degrees Centigrade.

Some of the vehicles in the competition, which starts on 17 October, are expected to achieve average speeds of more than 90 km/h.

Dr Andrew Shacklock
"We could drive much more efficient cars than we have now."
The BBC's Sue Nelson
Mad Dog faces stiff competition
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