Chasing the sun in Oz
UKZN leads Africa’s quest for a top 10 in solar race
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.