The South African solar car developed by the University of Johannesburg (UJ) returned to Mzansi recently after travelling 4 160 kilometers – for the first time – across Sub-Saharan Africa.
The journey started on 18 June 2015 in Kimberly and saw the car cross into boarders of Namibia and Botswana as part of the 2015 African Solar Drive challenge.
“It was an epic journey for the team in terms of knowledge transfer and practical experience – to develop the technology, the logistics and everything it took to go on this drive,” says Mechanical Engineering Science lecturer and the UJ Energy Movement Programme Manager, Nickey Janse van Rensburg.
Aside from testing and fine-tuning the mechanics, the project was also intended to test the new team and initiate them into what it takes to function as a professional team under race conditions in preparation for next year’s Sasol Solar Challenge.
Both the Ilanga II and the team performed very well, reaching a top speed of 95 km/h and travelling at an average speed of 75km/h.
Along the way the team faced several technical challenges which led to some astounding on-the-road engineering feats including redesigning and manufacturing internal components in Windhoek to optimize the motor for the road conditions. This taught the team a valuable lesson in trouble shooting.
The 2015 African Solar Drive was a great initiative for not only promoting solar energy and green technology but also because it raised awareness around fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics with hundreds of scholars along the way.
The project provided opportunities for UJ’s community engagement team to actively engage with schools and local communities through public lectures.
The team hopes that their continued engagement with these communities and schools will result in some of the schools participating in the Shell Eco-Marathon race in October this year and to grow more chapters of the Energy Movement in other Universities to champion the overall objectives of the initiative.
The challenge aimed to raise awareness and promote green technology.