NWU runs with solar power
A group of engineering students at the North-West University (NWU)’s Potchefstroom Campus completed this university’s first solar powered vehicle to compete in the Sasol Solar Challenge.
The competition kicked-off on 18 September and entails that all vehicles that are entered in the race, may only make use of solar power and must maintain an average speed of 60 km per hour. Participants tackle 1 800 km from Pretoria to Cape Town. Then along the East Coast via Pietermaritzburg and Secunda back to Pretoria - in total, more than 4 700 km in just 10 days.
According to Prof Albert Helberg, a lecturer at the Faculty of Engineering, this vehicle is not just a toy, but a full-scaled vehicle that is powered by an amount of solar power equal to that of a radio-controlled aeroplane engine and which can reach speeds up to 100 km per hour.
The price ticket of this vehicle, which is built from carbon fibre and resin because it is much lighter but seven times stronger than steel, is a staggering amount of R750 000. “We received a sponsor of R330 000 from the Technology Innovation Agency, and the NWU sponsors the outstanding amount and facilities,” says prof Helberg.
The vehicle, which looks like something from outer space, has a large flat surface that houses the solar panels. The panels are barely thicker than paper and store, in broad daylight, 1,2 kW energy in a battery, which in turn powers the two hub or axle motors. “For the very reason that the vehicle can reach a high speed, for safety purposes we have decided to use four wheels instead of three. The entire vehicle of approximately four metres long, weighs just 300 kg. It is about a quarter of the weight of a small passenger vehicle. We used world class glider technology for the aerodynamics of the vehicle and are sure that we have a winning recipe.”
The NWU competes against the following teams: Wits University; German School, Johannesburg; University of Johannesburg; Tshwane University of Technology; University of Cape Town; Tokai University; Kenjiro Shinozuka; University of Kwazulu Natal, Solarmobil and Dehli Technological University.
By Thursday morning (20 September) the NWU team was leading the race (with regard to the South African teams) and an overall third place. Follow the team’s progress on Twitter: #NWUSolarcar.
Click here for a video about NWU “sonwa”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_2jx1pxbZr4&feature=youtu.b
Engineering students who worked on the solar powered vehicle are, in the back from left: Christoff Briers, Pieter Brand and Armand Fourie. With them is Prof Albert Helberg. In front are Lu Sumbane and Willie Ehlers.