UJ: Solar racing can be fun

2010-09-30 07:01
The University of Johannesburg's entry into the Solar Challenge parked in Stellenbosch. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

The University of Johannesburg's entry into the Solar Challenge parked in Stellenbosch. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - The University of Johannesburg's entry into the Solar Challenge is an attempt to show young people that building alternative fuel vehicles can be fun.

"As a department we'd like to show youngsters that it's a fun thing to do. Building this car is a real world problem and you have to learn to fix it on the fly," project manager Marco Fürruter told News24.

The Solar Challenge seeks to drive science development of alternative energy by racing solar and hybrid vehicles across SA and the leading team has been the Japanese from Tokai University.

Fürruter though, is pleased with his team's progress, given the budget and time constraints they had to work with.

"Time and budget is a big issue. We're all electric engineers and when we consulted widely to build this car, we were told it was impossible. We had no help from the mechanical engineers."

Proud

But the car was built in just over five months and has been quite competitive in the race.

"We've just passed East London and we're cruising at about 100km/h to 120km/h. Not too bad," Fürruter said. The Japanese vehicle has a cruising speed of 120km/h, but it is a pure solar car.

"We're capable (of building a vehicle like the Japanese), but they've got a budget of €2m, whereas our budget was R300 000. Vodacom has sponsored our communications, and we have to start somewhere," he said.

Fürruter, who attended the Deutsche Schule (German School) which also has a race entrant, said that the reason their car didn't leave Stellenbosch under its own power was that they didn't want to struggle up Sir Lowry's Pass outside Cape Town.

Still, he has much to be proud of: They are the only South African university participating in the race.

"We wanted to promote our department, you know - to tell people 'Come and study at UJ'."

The Solar Challenge is organised in SA every two years by the Advanced Energy Foundation and the Innovation Hub and begins and ends in Pretoria.


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