News / Science & Technology

Prototype Solar Cars Train Future Alternative Energy Experts

Prototype Solar Cars Train Future Alternative Energy Expertsi
X
December 19, 2013 9:52 AM
In South Africa, students at the University of Johannesburg have taken on the challenge of building their own solar cars and racing them in competitions. As VOA's Emilie Iob reports from Johannesburg, the goal behind the racing thrill is to train future experts in alternative energy

Prototype Solar Cars Train Future Alternative Energy Experts

— In South Africa, students at the University of Johannesburg have taken on the challenge of building their own solar cars and racing them in competitions. While it offers plenty of thrills, the goal behind the program is to train future experts in alternative energy.
 
Young engineers from the University of Johannesburg built a 300-kilogram solar-powered car. The car can go faster than 100 kilometers per hour and uses less electric power than a household kettle. The students who designed it will drive it in the Solar Challenge, a national racing competition for cars that use alternative energy.
 
Kegan Smith, the university's former project manager, says the aim is to make these future engineers aware of the possibilities of green energy through a real world example.
 
"With what we do at the moment in fossil fuels, if we continue like this, there is not going to be a future. And if we do this kind of alternative energy, the cars are one application. But the nice thing with the cars it that it's a mindset change. If you can start shaping students' mind now, it's going to change the mindset of people in general. How do you use your lights? How do you use your electricity?" explained Smith.
 
Smith was one of the six undergraduate students who decided to take an end-of-the-year paper design assignment a step further. The group built their own design, a hybrid alternative-energy powered car, in 2010.
 
Since then, more cars have been built, using both hydrogen and solar power. 
 
Warren Larter, a former student, is the university's solar car project manager. While he does not expect solar cars to become mainstream, he pointed out that they do offer an important learning tool in the development of sustainable technologies.
 
"For us, it's a research thing. Our exact example is Formula One. You'll never see those cars on the road, but the technologies that go into them, you see it in every single car in every single household across the world. So that's where we are pushing it. This is our Formula One of alternative energy," said Larter.
 
Larter started a company that allows students to work on real-life projects fueled by industry demand. He said that alternative energies are a growing market, and more skilled engineers are needed.
 
"Locally, there is a lack of experts in alternative energy and in particular in solar technology. We seem to be importing a lot at this stage, which is not ideal… We should have the experts locally, so [a] project like this really pushes that. We have guys working with the solar panels, working on different aspect of the project. So instead of importing the guys and flying them in to work on this, we use the local guys, so they know just as much and can even do better than the international guys," said Larter.
 
Kegan Smith highlighted the potential real world application of the skills learned in projects such as the car.
 
"I got guys working on huge systems on the telecom sites, because that's what they did in the cars. So the experience they gain from the cars are now working towards it in the industry," said Smith.
 
Larter and his team of students are now working on a third car to enter the next Solar Challenge in August 2014. They want to win the national competition and then compete internationally.

You May Like

At International AIDS Conference One Goal, Many Paths

The 12,000 delegates attending 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne have vastly different visions about how to eradicate disease More

Disasters May Doom Malaysia’s Flag Carrier

Even before loss of two jets loaded with passengers on international flights, company had been operating in red for three years, accumulating deficit of $1.3 billion More

Afghan Presidential Vote Audit Continues Despite Glitches

Process has been marred by walkouts by representatives of two competing candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Agei
X
Elizabeth Lee
July 20, 2014 2:36 AM
Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.
Video

Video Diplomatic Crisis Grows Over MH17 Plane Crash

The Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine is drawing reaction from leaders around the world. With suspicions growing that a surface-to-air missile shot down the aircraft, there are increasing tensions in the international community over who is to blame. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Undocumented Immigrants Face Perilous Journey to US, No Guarantees

Every day, hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Central America attempt the arduous journey through Mexico and turn themselves over to U.S. border patrol -- with the hope that they will not be turned away. But the dangers they face along the way are many, and as Ramon Taylor reports from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, their fate rests on more than just the reception they get at the US border.
Video

Video Scientists Create Blackest Material Ever

Of all the black things in the universe only the infamous "black holes" are so black that not even a tiny amount of light can bounce back. But scientists have managed to create material almost as black, and it has enormous potential use. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Fog Collector Transforming Maasai Water Harvesting in Kenya

The Maasai people of Kenya are known for their cattle-herding, nomadic lifestyle. But it's an existence that depends on access to adequate water for their herds and flocks. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA, on a "fog collector."

AppleAndroid