Going from town to town, the fourth-generation solar electric car covered more than 2 153km on highways using solar panels installed on the vehicle’s flat surface, while educating schoolchildren about renewable energy.
Speaking on parliament’s recognition, Dr Christiaan Oosthuizen, the solar car team leader said he was proud of the team. “Parliament’s acknowledgement of the team’s hard work is a big pat on our backs. The world is watching and such recognition motivates staff and students to be even more innovative,” said Dr Oosthuizen.
The convoy to Namibia comprised a 13-member crew. They used four “regular” cars alongside the solar car that was driven by two students at intervals of about two hours each. This was to minimise fatigue and ensure the safety of both drivers. The car collected data for the duration of the seven-day trip on state-of-the art sensors and according to Oosthuizen, taught students about valuable field experiment techniques. The journey also allowed technologies that were designed in-house to be tested. The crew visited a number of schools during the trip to expose African youth to state-of-the-art renewable solar technologies.
The SunChaser is a single-seater vehicle, made of lightweight carbon fibre. It has a two kilowatt in-wheel electric motor and one kilowatt roof-mounted solar panels. The vehicle was designed, built and is driven by a team of staff members and students from TUT.
Interesting facts about the TUT solar car
- In 2018, the SunChaser 3 was ranked number one in the Sasol Solar Challenge, and achieved a fourth place internationally.
- The SunChaser 4 is the fourth solar electric car that the university has developed since 2014.
- The SunChaser 4 has a driving range of 800km on levelled roads with full sun
- Designing and simulating the car took almost a year, while the procurement of parts and manufacturing can take up to two years, depending on the vehicle type
- There are only a handful of solar cars in Africa, and TUT is the top performing team on the continent. Meaning, they can travel the furthest distance with the least amount of energy compared to other teams.