The country's first road-legal, solar-powered car will be rolled out next week.

The one-seater commuter vehicle begins a 1700km trip to Bluff, Southland, from Auckland Domain on Thursday morning.

The car can hit speeds of up to 100km/h and was the brainchild of Waikato University mechanical engineer Dr Mike Duke and a group of his students.

"It was officially certified as being roadworthy just last week after many years of trying," Duke said. "It can travel up to 200km a day using energy derived from the sun."


The Waikato prototype cost about $20,000 to develop. On the 15-day jaunt south, it will join a daylight-powered vehicle from Germany on a round-the-world trip.

"The German car has solar panels attached to it and draws energy that way," Duke said. "Our panels will come with us on a trailer and we'll recharge by simulating stopping at a solar charging station."

But Duke doesn't hold out much hope of seeing solar vehicles dominating New Zealand roads for a long time yet.

"It would be logical for us to go down this route but unfortunately no one would take it up at the moment," he said. "We are not trying to tell people that this is what we should be doing, it's just another idea to consider."