In 2006, Japanese electronics maker Panasonic teamed up with the Tokyo Institute of Technology to create a manned airplane powered by 160 AA batteries. While that was an incredible achievement, Panasonic wanted to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records, and apparently manned, battery-powered airplanes wasn't a category in the Guinness record book [source: Guinness World Records].
So, in 2007, Panasonic found another target: besting the land-speed record for a dry-cell battery-powered car. And so, the Panasonic Oxyride Speed Challenge began. It was named for the powerful -- 1.7 volts instead of the standard 1.5 volts -- non-rechargeable batteries made by the company.
The car was built by Panasonic engineers and students from Osaka Sangyo University, and it was quite different from the cars we drive to work everyday. Sitting just inches off the ground at 1 foot, 10 inches (56 centimeters) in height, it looked more like a long, low-riding bullet with tires than a car. This vehicle was built more along the lines of a soapbox racer than a typical street car, and through the use of ultra-lightweight carbon fiber, it weighed a scant 83 pounds (38 kilograms).
That small size was necessary to get the car up to speed -- Panasonic wanted 65 miles per hour (104.6 kilometers per hour) -- on the relatively small amount of power that AA batteries can provide. In this case, the racer used 192 AA batteries. That's right -- imagine a battery pack consisting of 200 of the same batteries you use in your clock radio being used to bring a vehicle up to highway speeds!
The battery pack was placed in the rear of the vehicle right behind driver Takashi Sudo, who reclined flat on his back to pilot the car. Once he was inside, the crew placed the plastic and carbon fiber body over him.
So how fast did it go? Those tiny batteries were enough to propel the racer to an average speed of 65.5 miles per hour (105.95 kilometers per hour) and a top speed of 75.8 miles per hour (122 kilometers per hour) [source: Guinness World Records]. The batteries ran out of juice after about three-quarters of a mile (1.2 kilometers), but it was enough to net the team a Guinness World Record.
So, while you may not be commuting to work in the Panasonic AA-powered speedster anytime soon, Panasonic did prove that you can power a car with AA batteries. That is, provided you have a whole lot of them, a vehicle that's extremely lightweight and aerodynamic and with the added expectation that it'll only operate for a very short distance.
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