The lecturers and students who have worked on the project - the first of two teams from Africa to enter the challenge - will take part in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge for the first time. They held a demonstration session for the media at the old Durban International Airport on Tuesday.
The 230kg, five metre-long car, named Hulamin, has six square metres of silicon solar panels to harvest energy from the sun, and can travel at 130km/h.
Lecturer and co-team leader Kirsty Veale said that because they were new to the contest, they expected stiff competition from more seasoned entrants, but they were hoping to finish in the top seven.
“The car that passes the finish line first wins," she said. "I don't think we are going to win the competition, but we are hoping that we will do well. The biggest thing for us is learning new things.”
Veale said the success of the project depended on the dedication of the students.
“The students who are part of this project applied," she explained. "We didn't go and pick the top students - we wanted the students who wanted to be involved.”
She said the staff had put a lot of effort into the sourcing of funding, and finding time to work on the project had been a problem at times.
“There is never enough time to build a solar car. This car is the same car we raced last year but with huge modifications. We had to pick and choose which modifications we could do, with the small time frame we had,” she said.
The construction of the car cost about R1 million, excluding logistics and other indirect costs. Co-team leader Clinton Bemont said the car would be in a container for about two months and would go via Singapore to Darwin.
They would see the car again two weeks before the competition started.
Bemont said his concern was the reliability of the car, but on previous occasions, their cars had not let them down.
A team of 13 was travelling to Australia, and four drivers would take turns behind the wheel from 8am to 5pm over several days.
The 2015 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge will be held in Australia from 18-25 October. The UKZN solar car entry is one of 47 from 25 countries around the world.
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Original source: SA solar racer ready to rock in Oz