With an insured value of R2 Million the NMMU Solar Car will challenge international and local teams in the Sasol Solar Challenge, an epic two-week country wide endurance challenge between specially engineered solar powered vehicles. Teams design and build their own innovative vehicles, which they put to the test travelling 5400 km across some of the most demanding terrain South Africa has to offer.
Starting on 18 September from the CSIR Pretoria, 5 drivers and support crew in four vehicles will traverse South Africa stopping in the following towns; 18 September – Vryburg, 19 September Upington, 20 September – Springbok, 21 September – Canalwalk Shopping centre in Cape Town, 23 September – Oudtshoorn, 24 September – East London, 25 September – Bloemfontein and Kokstad, 26 September – Pietermaritzburg, 27 September – Secunda and finish on 28 September back at the CSIR in Pretoria.
The enthusiastic NMMU Team are hoping that their fellow competitors will see the view you see below of their Solar Car as it makes it’s way at speeds topping around 80 kilometres per hour around the country.
Each Solar Car has a lead and chase vehicle plus other support vehicles. The drivers of the NMMU Solar Car are in radio contact with their lead vehicle and will be alerted to road hazards, such as potholes, as the brushless motor providing power is contained in the drive wheel and at R200 000.00 per motor is not an instantly replaceable item.
Each driver will drive for close on 3 hours and carry hydration packs as the Solar Car is NOT air conditioned nor can the driver open a convenient window to cool down.
Support from local industry has presented these young minds with a challenge of mammoth proportions and their lecturers could not stop praising their efforts and dedication – in the words of Project Leader, Clive Hands; “We are desperately proud of our Solar Car Team members.”
The Solar Car was named Photon in a competition that was won by NMMU Student, Julian Gonzales, who received an iPad for his efforts.
With the move towards ‘Think Blue’, Volkswagen Group South Africa (VWSA) led the charge by supporting the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s (NMMU) dream of designing, manufacturing and racing a solar car.
In May 2010, VWSA made a substantial financial and technical contribution towards establishment of the project, which has culminated in the VWSA-NMMU Solar Car team participating in the 3rd South African Solar Challenge from 18 to 29 September 2012.
“VWSA was excited to be involved in such a unique manufacturing project with the NMMU engineering students. Renewable energy will pay a significant role in the future of the automotive industry and by embarking on such a project, they will gain valuable knowledge which they can bring into the engineering field,” says VWSA Production Director Tom Du Plessis.
A number of international teams will be competing in their solar-powered vehicles across South Africa in a two week race that will cover 5 400km.
Clive Hands, project leader of the VWSA-NMMU Solar Car team, said: “Our team consists of both local and international students from multiple faculties studying at NMMU. They have all voluntarily participated in this exciting project since its inception in May last year.”
“The solar car has been designed to be a light as possible utilising composite technology in both the monocoque and the body shell to minimise rolling resistance, and CFD techniques have enabled the design of the body shell to be aerodynamic to ensure that drag is reduced to a minimum,” added Hands.
“All sub-systems have been designed and manufactured so that energy consumption is reduced as much as possible – the car will attempt to travel the width and breadth of South Africa with its 6 m2 solar deck producing no more power than it takes to run a hair-dryer,” concluded Hands.
International Exchange student, Arne Kloeblen, who heads the electrical side of the team says, “The panels we used for powering the car are 6 square meters of monocrystalline silicon, similar to those used for regular photovoltaic installations. They cover most of the top of the car and have been custom built to fit onto the car. A battery pack of lithium ion cells usually used for laptops or power tools is integrated to supply enough power if the heat from the sun does not provide sufficient energy to maintain the desired travel speed. In this instance, tunnels, inclines and bad weather are less influential. The drive is a highly efficient brushless DC motor that is able to use the supplied power to the max.”
With just over two weeks left before the start of the South African Solar Challenge, the team is working tirelessly on finalise testing, preparation and required tweaking to ensure that they glide across the finish line without any problems.
“The team has been putting in long hours so that the VWSA-NMMU Solar Car is ready for the challenge in September. We are confident that all of our efforts will pay off. We want to thank Volkswagen who have generously given us advice, assistance and time in this huge and unique challenge,” added Team Leader Matthew Fish, a BTech NMMU Mechanical Engineering student.
NMMU will compate against the following teams: WITS University, North West University, German School, Johannesburg, University of Johannesburg, Tshwane University of Technology/Wales, University of Cape Town, Tokai University (the current two time world champions), Kenjiro Shinozuka, University of Kwazulu Natal, Solarmobil and Delhi Technological University.