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Having enjoyed a rejuvenating mini-break in the South Australia coastal town of Streaky Bay, the drive team were refreshed and ready to tackle the final stretch of the epic Charge Around Australia trip. Day 67 saw them make the relatively short drive to the rural outpost of Kimba, the small town that marks the halfway point between the east and west coasts of Australia. 

The next day they continued on to the coastal city of Port Augusta where heavy rain meant that school visits were cancelled due to flooding concerns which also prevented the team from rolling out the solar sheets for charging. However, Matt and Adam arrived from the University of Newcastle to deliver another six solar sheets making the full complement of 18. Last-minute availability of space on the city’s oval meant that it was possible to roll out all the sheets to run harvesting and charging tests.

Day 68 and the team arrived in Clare bringing the total distance travelled since the start of the trip to 15,000km. A last-minute visit to Clare Valley Lutheran School facilitated rolling two of the solar sheets to harvest solar energy and allow the university team to continue testing in order to get to the bottom of ongoing battery charging problems. 

The next day, the drive south down the coast brought the team to Adelaide where Stuart visited the Tesla garage to replace the EV’s tyres and the team enjoyed an enlightening and interesting guided tour of the Christie Walk eco community development. A further two hours on the road saw the team arrive in the small town of Coonalpyn, known for its spectacular silo murals which make up part of the Silo Art Trail.

Day 75 and the team crossed into Victoria en route to Horsham Primary School for a great visit. The next day they continued on to Ballarat Grammar school, named after the city in Victoria where it is located, for another rewarding roadshow presentation. The team rolled out four solar sheets to collect solar power but were still having problems storing the harvested energy in the battery pack.

Day 77 saw the team head into the city of Melbourne and beyond to the Moora Moora residential community that lives off-grid cooperatively, taking its water from a natural spring and harvesting renewable energy from its own solar power farm. The community respectfully acknowledges the local indigenous Wurundjeri people and thanks them for the inspiration to live in harmony with nature and each other, particularly on Mount Toolebewong. 

The next day Stuart headed up to Kyneton to meet with Mark Tipping from Edea Energy, one of the Charge Around Australia project sponsors, before the following day driving 680km all the way over to the Australian Capital Territory. This 10-hour drive included a number of stops along the way at Tesla superchargers of which there are many in this region of the country. 

After a day of relaxing and sightseeing in Canberra, the team headed to the Australian National University where they were able to roll out a couple of solar sheets and Stuart gave a project presentation to local school children, which was also attended by Shane Rattenbury, the Minister for Water, Energy and Emissions Reduction as well as a number of the University of Newcastle team.

Day 82 saw the team arrive in the New South Wales coastal city of Nowra. At the city’s showground a full roll out of all 18 solar sheets determined that four had died. The 14 functional sheets gathered solar power for five hours and this energy was successfully stored in the batteries and transferred to the EV.

Continuing the transfer the following day in Wollongong, the team was able to look at the amount of power harvested and transferred to the car and extrapolate that if all 18 panels had been harvesting solar energy for the full 10 hours, then the target of gathering 160km of power a day would have been achieved.

The next day on arrival back in Newcastle, the team had driven 17,828km around the country’s coastline over 85 days, successfully completing Charge Around Australia – an interesting and rewarding challenge enhanced by roadshow school visits to educate young people about how remarkable, renewable, solar technology can be used to provide power generation for the future.

Plans are coming together for a drive-only event focusing solely on the science and technology of charging. The potential aim would be to complete a 1,000km-long route with up to a 100% of the necessary power harvested directly from the sun using printed solar sheets.