A TEAM of university students are heading to Australia hoping to make history with a solar car they’ve designed from scratch.

Durham University Electric Motorsport (DUEM) will compete in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, a week-long 3,000km race from Darwin to Adelaide starting on October 8.

Their carbon fibre car weighs in at just 200kg, and can reach speeds of up to 70mph.

Describing themselves as “the plucky Brits in the North-East”, the students hope to become the first British team to drive the whole distance entirely on solar power.

Tobias McBride, head of the DUEM business team, said: “UK teams normally stop or break down. No UK team in history has done the whole race just on solar power.”

DUEM have also gone the extra mile in becoming the only team to design, engineer and manufacture every component of their car. McBride added: “Everyone buys their motor – we make it.”

Having worked on the solar car for five years, DUEM are confident their “reliable and efficient” vehicle will bring home the goods in Australia. McBride said: “We don’t have the fastest solar car, but we want to have the best.”

The team will be put to the test in a race across the outback where they will encounter temperatures of over 40 degrees.

The students, however, have every reason to be confident. Their solar car has already competed in the 2008 North American Solar Challenge and the 2011 and 2015 World Solar Challenge in Australia.

Last December theirs was the first ever solar car to be exhibited at the UN Climate Summit in Marrakech, and this year they exhibited at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

Celebrating their DUEM’s 15th anniversary this year, the students hope their project will count as a small step towards a more sustainable future.

With the amount of energy available on the Earth’s surface from solar power exceeding our total energy consumption by a factor of 1,500, solar power is undoubtedly an important area of research.

As the team head to the largest event in the solar calendar, it would certainly be ironic if the next great step in solar car technology came from a small and rainy city in the North-East.