May 18, 2022

Solar car not for mass production

THE Sunchaser 4, a fourth-generation solar car built by students and staff from South Africa’s Tshwane University of Technology, toured the capital on Saturday.

Team boss Tiaan Oosthuizen said the car will not be mass-produced, but will be used to test various technologies.

“We will, for example, test the battery, steering, battery management and safety systems, as well as the solar system that we are developing in-house,” he said.

He said the various “small” technologies would then be introduced to the commercial market to help solar vehicle makers.

“We’re doing this to make it clear to automakers that the technology exists, it works, and it’s local,” Oosthuizen said.

He said the car is the most technologically advanced at the university and will aim to cover a total distance of 2,153 km on the country’s national highways.

One of the challenges the team has faced is getting help, as their project is unique.

Ryan van Greunen (27), one of two drivers who will drive the car through Namibia, is currently doing his Masters in Mechanical Engineering.

He said driving a solar-powered vehicle is different from other vehicles.

“It’s not like any other car, it doesn’t have a hard steering, which makes it difficult to drive. It’s also very hot in there, because the sun heats it up. There’s a fan inside, but it’s not air conditioned.” said Van Greunen.

He said the car is light, causing it to move in the wind and passing trucks.

The Sunchaser 4 team arrived in Namibia on Wednesday and left for Swakopmund yesterday.

The car can run at speeds of up to 120 km/h, but will most likely run below 100 km/h for fuel efficiency and increased safety.

With a mass of around 200 kg and a rolling resistance around three times lower than that of an ordinary vehicle, the Sunchaser 4 has a range of around 550 km on a flat road in clear weather.