University of Johannesburg solar car wins innovation award

The University of Johannesburg announced in a press release on Tuesday, 7 October 2014, that its team for the 2014 Sasol Solar Challenge received the technology and innovation award this past Saturday (4 October 2014).

This is the second time the UJ Solar team was recognised for its innovation, having won the innovation award in the 2012 Sasol Solar Challenge.

The vehicle, Ilanga II (Zulu word for sun), used Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) solar panels imported from Germany, which UJ said let it build the smallest and lightest (185kg) vehicle to participate in the challenge.

According to UJ, this was the first time GaAs panels had been used in a solar race challenge.

Lightweight materials such as carbon fibre, Kevlar, and Airex foam core were used for the body and suspension of the vehicle.

The battery pack, consisting of over 400 individual Lithium-Ion cells, weighed less than 20% of the total weight of the car.

UJ Ilanga II solar car - Day 1
UJ Ilanga II solar car – Day 1

Ilanga II also featured an axial flux brushless DC hub motor which UJ said is designed for solar racing, and was chosen for its efficiency as well as a high peak power output.

The car’s steering wheel was 3D printed and included a custom electronics board connected to an LCD display and several buttons. This included a booster button, for a quick boost of acceleration when needed.

The vehicle also contained a full telemetry system, which let the team member responsible for the race strategy and optimisation of the vehicle monitor the power output of the solar panels and the available power in the battery pack remotely.

“Considering the terrain and weather conditions, he could then advise the driver on how to manage the available power optimally,” UJ said.

The 8-day race saw UJ’s car coming fifth, behind North West University, the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Anadolu University (Turkey), and winners Delft University of Technology (Netherlands).

UJ’s solar team said that it now wants to move forward to represent South Africa in the World Solar Challenge in Australia in 2015.

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University of Johannesburg solar car wins innovation award