LOS ANGELES – After overcoming rough Russian roads and steep Rocky Mountain highways, a team from Tokyo Denki University arrived here Tuesday to complete the final leg of their two-hemisphere journey in an electric car.
Masaharu Fujinaka, a 62-year-old professor of electrical engineering, left Japan on July 3 with four students to begin the 18,000-km journey in the Solarbird II across Russia, Europe and the United States.
During the journey, which took almost 100 days, driver Masahiro Furukawa, a 22-year-old graduate student, traveled about 70 kph, averaging about 300 km per day.
The Solarbird II is a modified 1,300cc car with solar panels attached to its roof and hood and an internal battery.
The panels, which supply about 10 percent of the energy, were utilized during the day, while the battery was recharged over a 10-hour period each night.
The team’s success proves electric cars are efficient and viable alternatives to gasoline-powered vehicles, the professor said.
Fujinaka, who has been a proponent of electric cars for the past 30 years, is optimistic about their future.
“We have opened a new page in the history of the automotive industry, and the next generation will be able to utilize electric cars that will be used in the 21st century,” he said.
Last year, the group attempted to make the same trip but was unable to do so because of difficulties in obtaining the proper road permits.
The team is slated to return to Tokyo on Wednesday, with the Solarbird II to be shipped back later.
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