Chas­ing the sun in Oz

UKZN leads Africa’s quest for a top 10 in so­lar race

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - AL­WYN VILJOEN

WHILE KZN en­joys a brief respite from the sum­mer heat to­day, in Aus­tralia, two univer­sity teams from South Africa are chas­ing the Aus­tralian sun for a top 10 spot in the bi­en­nial Bridge­stone World So­lar Chal­lenge.

The so­lar teams from the uni­ver­si­ties of KZN (UKZN) and the North West (NWU) are the first teams from Africa to com­pete against 47 teams from 25 coun­tries in this his­toric race, which ends on Sun­day af­ter a 3 000 km route from Dar­win in the north to Ade­laide in the south of Aus­tralia. The UKZN team named their one-seater car Hu­lamin, while the NWU calls their the Sir­ius X25. Both are rac­ing in the Chal­lenger class, which UKZN co-leader Kirsty Veale de­scribed as the “F1 of so­lar car rac­ing.”

Lay­ing 11th among 28 teams yes­ter­day, the tiny KZN’s team had the best shot at end­ing in the top 10 for Africa against some of the wealth­i­est uni­ver­si­ties in the world.

UKZN co-leader Dr Clint Be­mont said while the KZN team are the un­der­dogs, they are aim­ing for medals. “We hope to beat teams from some of the best Uni­ver­si­ties in the World like Stan­ford, Cam­bridge, MIT and even Delft,” said Be­mont.

Stella Lux sets new record

In the more se­date Cruiser class, the car that is draw­ing the most at­ten­tion is called Stella Lux, built by the stu­dents at the Eind­hoven Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy at a ru­moured cost of close to R30 mil­lion. On Tues­day, the ec­static “sparky” for Team Eind­hoven, Qurein Biewenga — who schooled in Pre­to­ria — tweeted Stella had raced a record dis­tance of 1 500 km on a sin­gle charge, driv­ing at an av­er­age speed of 80 km/h.

To put this record in per­spec­tive, the team’s spokesper­son and one of Stella’s driv­ers, Liselotte Kock­elko­ren, said a Toy­ota Prius can only do 60 km on the same charge at the same speed.”

Stella Lux is the sec­ond it­er­a­tion of the so­lar car that achieved 875 km in the 2013 race and in the two years since, the Dutch stu­dents made what they say is the world’s first fam­ily car that runs only on sun light.


With its so­lar roof tilted to catch the last rays af­ter a dust storm in Aus­tralia, the Univer­sity of the North West’s Sir­ius X25 is cur­rently sec­ond last in the Chal­lenger Class of the World So­lar Chal­lenge.

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