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

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid