A team of students from Wits University’s School of Mechanical, Industrial and Aeronautical Engineering is heading towards a 5 400 km solar-powered adventure, as it enters the fourth Sasol Solar Challenge.
The Challenge, which is taking place in September 2014, sees teams of students, from local and international tertiary institutions, design and build solar-powered vehicles. The race is the longest of its kind anywhere in the world.
This will be the Wits team’s second Challenge event (in it’s first event, in 2012, the team finished a commendable fourth). It will enter its own vehicle, the Parhelion – a name inspired by a phenomenon which results in the formation of a halo or circular rainbow around the sun.
According to team leader Bradley Rautenbach, the Wits team wants to push the boundaries of technology and showcase the feasibility of renewable energy in the transport and energy sectors.
The Parhelion is designed to optimise energy from sunlight – only 23 percent of it is converted into electricity – using a semi-monocoque carbon fibre chassis, along with latest generation lithium-ion batteries (the same as those used in cellphones), which will ensure that the car is extremely lightweight.
The solar car will weigh around 170 kg, travel at 100 km/h using the same amount of electricity as an average hairdryer, and will reach a top speed of 120 km/h. The amount of drag generated by the entire car will be almost the same as putting your hand out of the window on the highway.