CPUT engineering boffins hope for bright sunshiney race

13 September 2018 - 14:33 By Dave Chambers
The CPUT Solar Flyer and some of the students who built it
The CPUT Solar Flyer and some of the students who built it
Image: CPUT

Students at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology have designed and built a solar car in just three months.

The vehicle‚ unveiled in Bellville on Thursday‚ will compete in the Sasol Solar Challenge‚ which will see more than 20 solar-powered vehicles racing from Pretoria to Stellenbosch starting on September 22.

The lightweight CPUT Solar Flyer is made of aluminium and covered in polyfibre composite. It has commercially available solar panels and the hub motors are mounted in motorcycle wheel rims with hydraulic disk brakes.

Deputy vice-chancellor Anthony Staak said the team of students and staff from the mechanical engineering and mechatronics department built the car in three months‚ about a quarter of the time of several rivals.

“Where others saw insurmountable obstructions‚ our team simply saw opportunities. As the build progressed designs were adjusted to ensure deadlines were met‚” he said.

“In the spirit of most CPUT projects‚ this solar car project is multidisciplinary and it fits in with the university’s vision to be at the heart of technology education and innovation in Africa.”

CPUT is taking part in the biennial Sasol Solar Challenge for the first time‚ and plans to use its vehicle as a tool to entice engineering students to the institution.

Speaking to the students who built the car‚ Professor Graeme Oliver said they could expect a lot of questions at the start and finish of the race.

“The competition is here to encourage younger people to take up engineering as a career. You know why you are doing this‚ but they don’t‚” said Oliver.

Teams in the challenge‚ who come from as far afield as Poland and Turkey‚ will compete to cover the most distance. They will follow a set route on each of the race’s eight days‚ then complete additional loops with the power they have left.

The event website says: “It takes good engineering‚ great drivers and a team that manages energy‚ the weather and the routes well. The many returning teams will be aiming to break 2016’s record of more than 4‚500km.”