State-of-the-art multi-seater solar car on the cards for TUT

by Mosima Rafapa

3 November 2023

Efficient transportation is a key focus at the Tshwane University of Technology's Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, where students are empowered with engineering skills and knowledge to create the cars of tomorrow. The success is evident from the development of a new state-of-the-art multi-seater solar car, which will be registered for normal road use in future years.

Andrew Graham, Livhuwani Selby Maremeni and Juandre Prinsloo were behind the wheels during the Bridgestone ILanga Championship where they secured a win. 

In addition, TUT’s SunChaser 4's two consecutive wins at the annual Bridgestone Ilanga Cup Championship, is further proof of the success of this focus. 

With the next Bridgestone Ilanga Cup scheduled for early 2024, TUT is already hard at work preparing for the event to ensure it will maintain its position as champions. 

During the 12-hour endurance race held at Red Star Raceway in Delmas, Mpumalanga, on October 4, the reigning champions, a team of three student drivers, completed 110 laps, covering nearly 473km. Following their victory, we caught up with the student drivers already making valuable contributions to developing renewable and alternative energy. 

Andrew Graham, Livhuwani Selby Maremeni and Juandre Prinsloo shared their 2023 experiences. 

How did you experience participating in the solar car competition? What were the most challenging moments you faced while driving and what lessons did you learn from this year's competition?

Driver 1: Livhuwani Selby Maremeni
Final year, Department of Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering 

Participating in a competition like this, gives us a growth platform to showcase our progress and demonstrate how far we can go when faced with a challenge. Like the F1 motorsport competition, we aim to enhance and experiment with novel solar car technology. As a driver, one must have exceptional physical and mental strength as we drive for two hours continuously. My most challenging experiences were when I had a front-right wheel puncture and, later, lost a lock nut from my front-left wheel. Our University of Technology has all the skills, knowledge and people to build a highly competitive car. With this expertise and experience, we aim to build an official roadworthy car in-home, while also encouraging more teams and universities to participate in the competition.

Some of the team members behind TUT's SunChaser 4 after their win at Red Star Raceway In Delmas on October 4.

Driver 2: Andrew Graham
Second-year, Department of Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering 

Participating in the solar car competition was an eye-opening adventure. The most challenging moment during the challenge was coping with the intense heat inside the car since the grueling 12-hour endurance challenge took place from 6 am to 6 pm. The scorching temperatures made it physically and mentally taxing. However, the real test came when I experienced a sudden blowout on one of the tires. This unexpected setback forced the team to improvise and make quick decisions to keep the challenge going. The experience underscored the importance of adaptability and the ability to solve problems under pressure. Through my experiences, I have learned that preparation is vital to success. It is important to remain calm and resourceful when faced with unforeseen challenges. The importance of teamwork and resilience were also highlighted, emphasising the unpredictable nature of real-world situations and the necessity of being equipped to handle them.

Driver 3: Juandre Prinsloo
Second-year, Department of Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering 

Driving the Sunchaser 4 was an exhilarating challenge and a remarkable learning experience. The competition tested our endurance and innovation. Battling the intense heat and the ever-increasing rolling resistance that wore down our tires, were quite challenging. The raceway was a tough environment for our solar car, with the scorching sun beating us relentlessly throughout the 12-hour challenge. The constant friction and heat were a true test for man and machine, pushing us to the limits of our driving capabilities. The experience taught me the importance of adaptability and quick decision-making. The key to our success was without a doubt the cooperation between team members. This challenge was definitely worth embracing, it tested our limits and pushed our boundaries, ultimately bringing us closer to the future of sustainable transportation.

Dr Christiaan Oosthuizen, leader of the solar car team, explained that while students get an opportunity to participate, experienced team members play a crucial role in the team's overall success. 

“The Sunchaser team is a lot like an F1 team; on TV, you only see and get to know the driver of the F1 car. However, the car is designed and built by a large team of people who work behind the scenes over many years and never enter the limelight. Our solar car team size varies yearly but is probably in the order of 15 people, from the fields of Mechanical and Mechatronics, Industrial 3D Design and Electrical Engineering,” said Oosthuizen.

He attributes the success of the solar car to “the effective multi-disciplinary teamwork and drawing from lessons learned over the past ten years of designing and building solar vehicles at TUT. I am excited about the new state-of-the-art multi-seater solar car we are currently developing, which will be registered for normal road use in future years.”


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