A University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) team is competing with more than 40 other teams from 25 countries to take the top spot in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, being held in Australia from October 18 to 25.
The UKZN Solar Car Team, comprising a group of engineering students and lecturers from the Durban-based university and led by project leaders Kirsty Veale and Dr Clint Bemont, kicked off the 3 000 km Darwin-to-Adelaide race on Sunday with the 5-m-long Hulamin.
Taking part in the Challenger class – four wheels category, the team planned to cross the outback with the aerodynamically-optimised and asymmetrical designed 130 km/h solar vehicle strapped with 6 m2 of super-high-efficiency silicon solar panels.
The solar car, with a theoretical drag of 0.07, weighed less than 250 kg, including 21 kg of lithium-ion batteries to store energy, and boasted a fully carbon-composite monocoque chassis.
This year marked the thirteenth Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, which occurred every two years, since inception of the solar challenge in 1987.
“We are not the team with the most expensive technology; we have had to make do with much less resources than most of the teams we will be up against, but we are confident our skill and dedication will be our advantage,” Bemont said.
The solar car, which was a UKZN initiative previously called Hulamin – iKlwa, had won the South African National 2014 Sasol Solar Challenge and set distance records for the Olimpia Class.
The vehicle was rebranded as aluminium manufacturing company Hulamin funded and supported the project with the intention of entering it into the World Solar Challenge.