Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) Solar Team


TEAM | Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) Solar Team

CAR NAME | SunChaser IV

Country | South Africa

CLASS | Challenger

After a seven-day road trip to test their solar car, the Tshwane University of Technology is ready to take on the 2022 Sasol Solar Challenge.

The team started building their fourth solar car, SunChaser IV, in April 2020 and it was complete and ready for testing in May 2021. Instead of conducting a closed testing, the team decided to go on a road trip, driving from Pretoria in South Africa to Swakopmund in Namibia, and covered more than 2 000 km.

Team spokesperson Maureen Ramaube said it was important that real-world testing in real-world conditions is conducted to enable the team to improve where necessary, using correct and relevant data.

“While we were driving through each town to the final destination in Namibia, we were also collecting valuable data with various state of the art sensors. With that data, we were able to make necessary improvements in the car,” said Ramaube.

She added that, “the road trip was not only to test the car, but also raise an awareness in schools and communities on the use of renewable energy.”

When the TUT team first entered to compete in the Sasol Solar Challenge in 2012, they only had three months to build and test their solar car.  The actual physical work on the car started just three weeks before the event. The team of staff members and students had no experience with solar cars, armed only with enthusiasm and a hunger for knowledge.

In 2012, the team needed experience in time and team management, as well as logistics. In 2014, with these newly developed skills, they designed their first solar car from scratch, learning about composite and manufacturing techniques. The focus shifted in 2016 to developing a monocoque design, carbon fibre manufacturing, battery management, highly efficient photovoltaic and charge controllers, solar car monitoring, telemetry and weight improvement.

In 2018, the team had a lot in store for the event, especially academically. They came back with new focus on energy estimation and, in-house manufacturing of large size moulds. A team member also embarked on a PhD in Engineering, based on energy optimisation of the solar car. The study was implemented during the 2018 Sasol Solar Challenge event and provided useful insights.

Since then, the TUT team has gained more and more experience designing and building solar cars as they compete in each challenge.

In 2019, the team decided to partner with high school learners to enable younger kids to enter the challenge.

“The high school is one of our feeder schools, therefore it was important for us to invest in the learners, so they have prior solar car knowledge and experience when they finally enter TUT,” said Ramaube.

The team’s focus on their fourth generation solar car, which weighs approximately 200 kg, was on aerodynamic drag reduction and active battery management, as well as logistics for future international participation.

The team covered 2,500 km in the 2018 Sasol Solar Challenge and are aiming for 3,000 km in the upcoming event.