Mbombela’s team SolarFlair to chase their dreams
MBOMBELA - Team SolarFlair' dream started in 2019, when they participated and organised the EV Challenge for high school learners, and now they will compete in the 2022 Sasol Solar Challenge.
The 14th Sasol Solar Challenge starts at the Carnival City Casino in Johannesburg on Friday. Those competitors who stay the pace and complete the 2 500km route, should arrive in Cape Town on September 16.
The reward for these competitors lies not just in winning this race, but also in the development of new technology that might prove beneficial to all of us.
Every member of this team brings expert knowledge and skills to the project. Team leader Klasie Botha’s infinite enthusiasm is legendary. Every technical challenge - and there are many - is just another opportunity to innovate and improvise.
“Covid-19 put everything on ice. Then the competition rules changed and we will now compete in the challenger class,” said Botha.
Among the rules changes was that cars can now be three-wheelers, and SolarFlair had four wheels at the time. So they set about redesigning everything. “I used the original front suspension at the rear and redesigned the front wheel set-up and the cabin.”
At the initial scrutineering at Red Star Raceway in Delmas, SolarFlair weighed in at 151kg. The stringent scrutineering process focuses on safety, brake capacity, design integrity and general vehicle performance testing. The vehicle must be fully road legal according to the rules. The rules are a minefield, and every team is accompanied by an independent observer who monitors team activity with a beady eye.
“SolarFlair has a metal frame that has been covered by airplane fabric. Surprisingly, this is lighter than carbon fibre, which is widely used by other teams in the competition. Our solar panels cover 4m², generates about 43V and can do about 350km on one full charge,” said Botha. "One of the biggest challenges is to control the power output at pull-off. We have, however, rewired and reprogrammed our two-motor controllers to provide smooth power release.”
Top speed? Well, about 110km/h, depending on road conditions, but they hope to average around 80km/h. SolarFlair SP 400 gets its name from the term "solar flare", a sudden temporary outburst of energy from a small area of the sun's surface. The "SP" stands for "sun power", and the "400" for "R400 000", the team’s budget for building the car.
The 12 team members range from 20 to over 70 years of age. Their skills range from electrical and mechanical engineering to graphic design and electronics, and is built on knowledge gained from building the small electric vehicle for the EV Challenge.
The three drivers, all alumni of the EV Challenge programme, will drive for two hours at a time and the team will do between 250300km per day. “We are just so blessed to part of these one-of-a-kind monumental projects,” they said.
Mark Schormann, the team director, said, “This is an amazing opportunity. Competing in the world Solar Challenge in Australia is our next goal.”
For Anton Geldenhuys and Willem van Wyk, the manner in which the team has managed to solve the various technicalities and redesign of individual components to perform and integrate optimally, is an amazing experience. "Even if we do not complete the race, the knowledge and insight we will gain through the exposure to
The drivers, all alumni of the EV Challenge programme, will drive for two hours at a time and will do between 250-300km per day
the technical savvy of the other teams, will absolutely elevate our ability and knowhow.”
The team will be preparing for the final scrutineering at Red Star Raceway between September 3 and 6. The race will start on the ninth.
Should you wish to support the team financially or otherwise (and they do need support), contact Schormann on 082 802 5885.
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