Solar-powered cars are just now making news, but 25 years ago, solar pioneers Greg Johanson and Joel Davidson set a Guinness world record for the fastest "Solely Solar Powered Vehicle." On July 1, 1984 the Sunrunner achieved 24.7 mph in Bellflower, Calif., and a final top speed of 41 mph in the Mojave Desert. The speed was officially recorded by Guinness-approved independent observers and set the record. During 1984 and 1985, Johanson and Davidson extended an open invitation to race any other solar vehicle, but no one accepted the challenge. The record appeared in the 1986 Guinness Book of World Records. Inventor Greg Johanson is still in the solar vehicle business, making solar roofs for hybrid cars.
Johanson's company, Solar Electrical Systems of Westlake Village, Calif., has grown along with the photovoltaic industry from a one-man operation selling off-grid PV to one of the most successful independently owned solar companies in the U.S., selling solar power systems for homeowners, businesses and low-income housing. Johanson's interest in solar-powered vehicles never waned. Today, he drives a solar powered Plug-In Prius that is powered by the solar system on his residence. The fact that Toyota now offers solar power to cool the Prius, and several auto manufacturers are offering plug-in hybrid cars, is proof that he was driving down the right track.