A TEAM from Durham University has spent three years developing a solar-powered vehicle and now plans to test it against designs from across the world.

But to take part in the World Solar Challenge, in Australia, in October the students need sponsorship of more than £25,000.

The Durham design is the only one from this country to enter the biennial event, when covers an 1,800-mile course between Darwin and Adelaide.

The single-seater car has a tubular steel chassis and carbon fibre body shell. It has a maximum speed of about 50mph.

Engineering undergraduate Richard Flint, who is managing the project, said: "We are not suggesting that cars like this will be the cars of the future but some of the electrical technology could be used in future.''

Mr Flint said the team needed £25,000 to ship the vehicle to the race and a "few thousand pounds'' to complete the work on it.

"It we don't get the money it means we will have to wait another two years to enter the race," he said.

"It would be good if we could enter this year because it is the 20th anniversary of the World Solar Challenge and it is also the 175th anniversary of the university.''

To sponsor the project visit www.dur.ac.uk/dusc