NWU's solar car rakes in big awards!

Issued by
Johannesburg, Oct 3, 2016

They did it! The North-West University's solar car team covered a total distance of 3524.9km in eight days from Pretoria to Cape Town during the Sasol Solar Challenge.

After a freak accident during the time trials, the team managed to fix their car just in time for the start of the race and surprised everyone when they finished in fourth place, eight days later on 1 October. As if this was not enough, they also raked in three awards and were honoured for two new records.

They have been awarded the African Spirit Award, the award for Technology and Innovation as well as the award for Team Professionalism and Safety. They were honoured for the African team to travel the furthest distance ever with a solar car and the African team that covered the longest distance one day: a staggering 611km!

The NWU team found themselves within the competitive international arena with teams from the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and the Tokai University of Japan competing. The Kecskemet University of Hungary finished third with the Netherlands as winners.

From 24 September to 1 October, the NWU's Sirius X25 competed on a route from Pretoria to Cape Town against 13 other teams. The NWU team consisted of 25 engineering students who participated in the "Challenger" class. The provisions of this class was that the registered vehicle must have four wheels, may only make use of solar energy to complete the entire route and may only use a maximum area of six square meters of solar panels.

The NWU participated in their first Sasol Solar Challenge in 2012, with only three months' preparation and a very limited budget. Exceeding all expectations, they were the winners of the Olympia Class. They also improved the South African record for the longest distance covered. In addition, they received the coveted International FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile) award for Renewable Energy.

In 2014 they finished the race in fourth place and again improved the record for the South African team by covering the longest distance in a single day.

Prof Albert Helberg, team leader, said they made several improvements to this year's solar car which enabled it to operate about 20% better than their previous car.

Students built the entire Sirius X25 by hand. Several sponsors contributed to its hefty price tag of a little more than R1 million.

In their first Sasol Solar Challenge in 2012, the team managed to travel slightly more than 1 000km. In 2014, during the same competition, they covered more than 2 000km and in last year's World Solar Challenge they could cover a little more than 3 000km. "Even though this year's route was only 2 000 km in length, the team managed to cover 3524.9km by driving additional routes. The team that covered the longest distance over eight days was crowned winner.

The Sirius X25 and its batteries weigh a mere 196 kg. It can reach a top speed of 135 km per hour, is 4,5m long and 1,8m wide. It is built mainly of carbon-fibre, with selected aluminium components.

Helberg said the competition was a great experience great and representing South Africa was a great privilege. "We plan on keeping the South African flag flying high by competing in next year's Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in Australia. We will have an even better car to try and break our previous and other records. We would like to thank all our sponsors and supporters - without them this would not have been possible," he said.

See the video as they crossed the finish line.