Video: UJ’s Ilanga II solar race car launched

August 22nd, 2014, Published in Articles: EE Publishers, Articles: Energize, Articles: EngineerIT, Articles: Vector, Featured: EE Publishers


The University of Johannesburg’s Solar Team launched its Ilanga II solar race car on 5 August in anticipation of the biennial Sasol Solar Challenge. The eight-day challenge (27 September to 4 October 2014), starts in Johannesburg, passes through Port Elizabeth and finishes in Cape Town.

South African universities and other local solar teams will compete in the competition. UJ’s Ilanga II is a favourite in the race, after first having entered the competition in 2010 with Ilanga I. Ilange II builds on its predecessor, but introduces radical changes. The new model has four instead of three wheels (new safety regulations), has a distinctly wing-shaped design, and has the driver cockpit on the right back end of the vehicle for less aerodynamic drag.

The UJ Solar Team behind the just-launched Ilanga II.

The UJ Solar Team behind the just-launched Ilanga II.

The team is optimistic about this year’s race, and will also be competing in the World Solar Challenge in Australia in 2015. Measuring approximately 3,5 by 1,6 m and weighting only 170 kg (excluding the driver), the team believes the car’s size and weight will give them a competitive advantage in both races.

The smaller design is made possible by higher efficiency gallium arsenide photovoltaic solar cells, which are 35% efficient. The electric motor, built directly onto the left back wheel, is 98% efficient. Designing the car to match SA road conditions and the up-and-down route to Cape Town also helped produce a competitive car for the Australian race, which cover flatter terrains according to Warren Hurter, UJ Energy Movement project manager and UJ solar spokesperson.


The Solar Challenge takes place on national roads and drivers have to abide by standard traffic regulations. The race also has various race categories. The Ilanga team hopes to win the category for longest distance covered, a category that allows teams to cover extra distances around towns along the way. This is not only a measure of performance, but also of strategy since weather, battery performance and road conditions are all influences.

Besides promoting alternative energy solutions, energy management and sustainable engineering, the project also aims to inspire future engineers. For this the project has an educational leg, touring to schools with the car and rallying youngsters nationwide around the project.

Speaking at the launch, UJ Energy Movement project coordinator Nickey Janse van Rensburg introduced the 17-member team. Prof. Wimpie Clarke (CEO of Resolution Circle, a UJ R&D initiative) emphasised the importance of innovation, and the need of bringing academia and industry together.

Illanga II also has the advantage of a dedicated team working on the car over several years, lending the project a longer-term focus. Other universities’ teams usually comprise of a team of final year students.

The UJ solar car project forms part of the university’s Energy Movement, and is managed by Resolution Circle, a UJ research and development initiative which connects research with industry. The UJ Energy Movement is a programme promoting research, education and industry participation on alternative energy issues at the university. Industry partners in the project include Eskom, Siemens, and RS Components, who contributed technology and financing for the project.

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