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

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

Proud his­tory

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.

Tech­ni­cal in­no­va­tions

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.

Gen­eral spec­i­fi­ca­tions

• 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.

PHOTO: TWIT­TER

North West Univer­sity’s Naledi so­lar race car un­der­go­ing dy­namic scru­ti­neer­ing at the Hid­den Val­ley Race­way in Dar­win, Aus­tralia.

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