SA solar challenge: UJ’s racer unveiled

JOHANNESBURG – The University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) Solar Team has unveiled its new solar-powered vehicle, the Ilanga II, ahead of the 2014 Solar Challenge.

The Sasol Solar Challenge is a bi-annual race whereby Universities from all over the world participate with their custom-made solar vehicles, built by the students.

The 2014 race will start in Pretoria on September 27 and end in Cape Town on October 4.


According to organisers, the 2014 Sasol Solar Challenge is not just a race; the endurance challenge focuses on the longest distance covered, time, maximum speed and solar energy generated.

Since this is a distance race instead of a speed race, teams will have the option to expand their daily distance by driving loops varying from 58km up to 132km. Loops can be driven more than once, which would give competitors the ability to travel as far as they can on a single day.

UJ said: “The Ilanga II echoes the values of aerodynamic success and high performance, with striking graphics reflecting its audacious, aggressive character and design - attesting to UJ’s futuristic vision of: Rethink. Reinvent.”

According to the team, six months have been dedicated purely to the design, with four to six months focused on manufacture and assembly of the solar-powered vehicle. Ilanga II will be undergoing rigorous testing to ensure driver handling and safety.


It has a maximum speed of 130km/h, with an average target speed of 75km/h when purely powered by lithium-ion batteries.

The tyres have been specifically designed taking the route into consideration and the four relay drivers will also undergo advanced driver training before the race commences.

The university says RS Components provided a R1-million sponsorship towards the team, meaning they could choose that amount of products from any of RS’s 500 000 products, stretching across 2500 brands.

The project, says UJ, was designed to assist students in becoming industry-ready, includes obtaining funding for their projects.

UJ said: “Their fundraising drives, together with academic and administrative support partners from Resolution Circle (UJ’s specialised technology research and development centre) have resulted in 25 industry partners, including RS Components, Siemens, Eskom, Sasol and MTN, putting their weight behind the team’s green technology drive."


General Manger for RS Components Brian Andrew said: “Since the Faculty is driven by active research and focused on commercialising patents through the Resolution Circle, we are looking for various ways to assist UJ in their research and development.

"This vital to future engineering developments, and in how South Africa drives innovation in the global economy. It is equally important for South Africa to continue research and development in an area such as alternative energy.”

UJ’s entry into the Solar Challenge is an attempt to show young people that building alternative fuel vehicles can be fun. The excitement resulted in over 300 students across the University having joined the fan club, the UJ Solar Society, and many have already signed up for try-outs and to be one of the four relay drivers.

Based on these collaborative partnerships and participation, Ilanga II has fast become an international brand, highlighting UJ’s global excellence and stature, multidisciplinary approach to teaching, and incorporating ideas and expertise from the fields of management, art, marketing, industrial design and engineering.

The UJ team is more than ready to take on international and local competitors and will continue to focus on race strategy, competitive edge and reviewing market research.

The support generated from the challenge has also sparked great interest in the international World Solar Challenge in Australia and the Shell Eco-marathon in Qatar, both in 2015, says UJ.

For more information, visit the team's website.

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