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Sep 14, 2012

Varsity teams up with auto group for big solar race

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Africa|Energy|PROJECT|Shell|Volkswagen Group South Africa|Africa|Japan|Netherlands|South Africa|Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University|Composites Technology|Energy|Solar Car|Vehicle Manufacturer|Arne Kloeblen|Clive Hands|Power|South Africa|Composites Technology
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The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) has unveiled its locally built entry into the 5 400 km Sasol Solar Challenge South Africa, which will take place from September 18 to 29.

The NMMU team received financial and technical support on this project from vehicle manufacturer Volkswagen Group South Africa (VWSA). Volkswagen has also provided the team with three vehicles – a Crafter, a T5 Kombi and a Caddy – to be used as support vehicles during the two-week race.

The VWSA-NMMU solar car, which has been named Photon, will compete against a number of international teams from countries such as Japan and the Netherlands.

“Our team consists of both local and international students from multiple faculties at NMMU,” says VWSA-NMMU Solar Challenge team project leader Clive Hands. “They have all voluntarily participated in this exciting project since its inception in May last year.”

Hands adds that the Photon has been designed to be light, using composites technology in the monocoque and body shell to minimise rolling resistance. Drag has also been reduced to a minimum.

“All subsystems have been designed and manufactured to reduce energy con- sumption as much as possible,” explains Hands.

“The car will travel the width and breadth of South Africa, with its 6 m2 solar deck producing power not more than it takes to run a hairdryer.”

International exchange student, Arne Kloeblen, who heads the electrical side of the team, notes that the panels used for powering the car are monocrystalline silicon, similar to those used for regular photovoltaic installations.

“They cover most of the top of the car and have been custom-built to fit onto the car. A battery pack of lithium-ion cells, normally used for laptops or power tools, has been integrated to supply enough power in case the heat from the sun does not provide sufficient energy to maintain the desired travel speed,” notes Kloeblen.

“The drive is a highly efficient brushless direct current motor that is able to use the supplied power to the max.”

The VWSA-NMMU team is currently working on final testing, tweaking and preparation to ensure the Photon crosses the finish line without any problems.

Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu
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