Development of a practical solar powered car has been an engineering goal for 20 years. The center of this development is the World Solar Challenge, a biannual solar powered car race over 3021 km (1877mi) through central Australia from Darwin to Adelaide. The race's stated objective is to promote research into solar-powered cars. Teams from universities and enterprises participate. In 1987 when it was founded, the winner's average speed was 67 km/h (42 mph). By the 2005 race this had increased to an average speed of greater than 100 km/h (62 mph), even though the cars were faced with the 110 km/h (68 mph) South Australia speed limit.
Helios, named after the Greek sun god of the same name, was a prototype solar powered unmanned aircraft. AeroVironment, Inc. developed the vehicle under NASA's Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology (ERAST) program.
On 13 August, 2001, it set an unofficial world record for sustained altitude by a winged aircraft. It sustained flight at above 96,000 feet (29,250 m) for forty minutes, and at one time it flew as high as 96,863 feet (29,524 m). Later, in June 2003, the prototype broke up and fell into the Pacific Ocean about ten miles (16 km) west of the Hawaiian Island Kauai.
The first practical solar boat was probably constructed in 1975 in England (see Electrical Review Vol 201 No 7 12 August 1977). By 1995 passenger boats began appearing and are now used extensively. Solar powered boats have advanced sufficiently to cross the Atlantic. The first crossing of the Atlantic Ocean was achieved in the winter of 2006/2007 by the solar catamaran sun21.
A solar balloon is a black balloon that is filled with air. As sunlight shines on the balloon the air inside is heated and expands. This causes an upward buoyancy force. As such, the balloon functions like a hot air balloon. Some solar balloons are large enough for human flight but usage at the moment is restricted to the toy market.