UNW’s Naledi solar car is South Africa’s only hope in the biennial solar car challenge currently underway in Australia.
North West University students compete against 50 teams for a top 10 spot in solar challenge
A GROUP of engineering students from the North-West University (NWU) is competing in the biennial Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in Australia.
They built Naledi on the smallest budget in the group, but the novel design has already proven to be fast enough to aim for a top 10 among the one-seaters.
This year marks the event’s 14th crossing of Australia and the 30-year anniversary of the challenge with a record 50 teams competing. The UNW team met these teams in Darwin, Australia, where the static scrutineering tests took place before the car also had to undergo dynamic scrutineering tests on the Hidden Valley Raceway in Darwin.
NWU team captain, professor Albert Helberg, said the scrutineers required only one small mechanical change and a few mostly cosmetic alterations, which included moving some of the hazard lights on their chase and lead vehicles and a small change to one of the circuits in the battery box.
The car passed the dynamic scrutineering, which entailed figure-eight’s, slalom courses, emergency stops, as well as a fast lap around the racecourse at Eden Valley in Darwin, with flying colours.
The students have since Sunday been driving hundreds of km/ day in the 3 000 km race.
The North-West University has been competing in solar challenges since 2012, when it made history with their debut solar car — the Batmobile — which shared the overall first place in the 2012 Sasol Solar Challenge with the Tokai University from Japan.
Twelve teams, including teams from South Africa, Japan, India and Wales, undertook the 5 200 km journey from Pretoria, via Springbok, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein, Pietermaritzburg and Secunda, to cross the finish line in Pretoria again.
NWU took first place in the Olympia class, but set a new international and two national records. In 2015, the NWU became the first ever African solar team to complete the gruelling journey from Darwin to Adelaide in the Australian Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. They travelled the total distance of 3 000 km within six days.
After starting in 31st position on the first day, the NWU finished in 11th place in the world and in first place of the African teams, beating the UKZN team, who had endless tyre trouble.
The 2017 Naledi is a lot sleeker than the Batmobile and has a smaller solar array that tilts to catch the sun en route.
Judging by the enthusiastic Twitter responses, other engineering students like Naledi for its out-of-the-box thinking.
The NWU manufactured a special cooling method for the solar array using 3D-printing technology and computational fluid dynamics in the design process. • The suspension system for the car had to fit into a very narrow strut and had to have very little play. It was designed by the Faculty of Engineering’s fourth-year students. • The car has a fitted speedcruise system, which is based on energy usage and not specifically speed, although it can be adjusted to suit that need as well. • The aerodynamic design of the car was based on the Jonker Sailplane, which gives it a very low drag resistance.
• The team targets a constant speed of 80 km/h by generating 8 kw/h throughout the day. • The car has a battery pack that consists of 403 Li-ion cells, which weighs just under 20 kg. • In total, the car weighs 225 kg. • The car is just short of five metres in length, with a width of 2,2 m. • It has a four square-metre solar array. — Wheels Reporter.
North West University’s Naledi solar race car undergoing dynamic scrutineering at the Hidden Valley Raceway in Darwin, Australia.