The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) School of Engineering has unveiled the solar-powered car that will be the first African entrant into the biennial Bridgestone World Solar Challenge to be held from October 18 to 25. This solar car is an undergraduate engineering final year project led by Kirsty Veale and Clinton Bemont.

The UKZN solar car team is one of 47 teams from 25 countries. Many teams have been participating in the race since its inception in 1987. The South African car has been entered into the Challenger class, which is the premier segment of the event and by far the most competitive. Despite the fact that the Hulamin project cost just a tenth of that of many of its competitors, Bemont said the team was confident that it would perform well.

The car will be shipped to Australia on July 31. Once there, a special nonreflective coating that is hypersensitive to touch will be applied just before the race begins. The aerodynamically designed car is 5 m long, weighs around 230 kg and has a very low drag coefficient of just 0.07, which enables it to go both faster and further. It is lightweight, yet rigid and safe.

Work on creating a solar car at UKZN began in 2012. The car that will go to Australia is the second car that has been built from scratch. “We’ve built on and enhanced the 2014 car and kept part of the original team. That places us in a strong position to compete,” said Veale. The initial car, named iKlwa, won the national 2014 Sasol Solar Challenge and set distance records in the Olimpia class.

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