Sunshine on the open road

HARD WORK: Assembling the CPUT Solar Flyer.

CPUT students and staff members will take part in this year’s Sasol Solar Car Challenge 2018, South Africa for the first time.

Held every second year, the competition sees teams from across the world design and build solar-powered vehicles to drive across South Africa in an eight day event.

Prof Graeme Oliver of the Mechanical Engineering Department has put together a team of 20 staff members and students to compete against the more than 20 local and international teams expected to participate.

Oliver initially signed CPUT up for the competition back in May, but only received confirmation of Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) funding at the end of June, leaving two months to put together the car.

The compressed time schedule meant using a design and manufacturing process that would be achievable in a limited amount of time which Oliver calls a great learning experience for everyone.

“Because this is our first time entering the Challenge there is a lot of extra learning to be done.

“As we are very new to this competition we are also happy to receive advice such as the input from our LiFePO4 battery pack fabricator, who is also sponsoring some small electrical components, on battery management and switching systems to protect our battery performance,” said Oliver.

Since the project is not integrated into a particular course or subject, students from Mechatronics, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering have volunteered to work on the team with the help of the TIA Adaptronics AMTL research unit based at CPUT.

The solar electronic car will be called CPUT Solar Flyer “because it looks a bit like a plane.”

The vehicle design will incorporate in-wheel hub motors and a covered space frame reinforced with composites for safety, with an-offset adjustable roof mounted solar array.

The solar array is assembled from commercially available panels and the hub motors are imported kits supplied by a local Cape Town supplier, with some additional design fabrication needed to mount them in motorcycle wheel rims with the in-wheel hydraulic disk brakes.

The 20 strong team is hard at work in the Adaptronics AMTL building, when teaching and learning schedules allow, but not all will travel to Pretoria for the actual road trip.

The team who do eventually make the journey will drive the car from Pretoria to Stellenbosch between 22 and 29 September, covering a set distance every day.

Written by Theresa Smith

Leave a Comment