Tough times, but NWU's Naledi remains positive
The North-West University's (NWU’s) solar car, Naledi, has done well in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. Cloudy weather and rain today made it necessary for the NWU Solar team, like many other teams, to trailer Naledi to an open control stop on the route to Adelaide, in compliance to the rules of the event.
The Bridgestone World Solar Challenge then defines the class of participation of all teams that trailered their solar cars as Adventure class. Naledi is still the only car from Africa in the event.
The team kicked off their 2017 Bridgestone Solar Challenge on Sunday when they departed from Adelaide and finished the first leg 419 km later in Mataranka. On Monday, Naledi embarked on the second leg of her journey and this stage bore testament to just why the Bridgestone Solar Challenge is as tough as its reputation say it is.
A speed limit of 70 km/h was imposed due to concerns about on-road stability, but Naledi was able to resume her normal speed when the team managed to rectify this. Cloudy weather reduced the energy generated by the solar array, and a higher than expected energy consumption required that the car was driven at slower speeds to be more energy efficient.
The team spent the night in the town of Elliot which is almost halfway between Darwin and Alice springs after having covered a distance of 312 km on Monday.
On Tuesday rain meant that Naledi was unable to charge and had to spend the day being towed on a trailer. The team will stay in Alice Springs on Tuesday.
"Like many other solar cars in the Bridgestone Solar Challenge, the North-West University's solar team was caught up in rainy and cloudy weather and, because we can't drive without any sunlight, we had to pick up the car and put it on a trailer and tow it to Alice Springs where we hope to put it back on the road tomorrow morning," said Prof Albert Helberg, team captain.
"The team is functioning well. They are disappointed that we couldn't travel further, but they understand the reasons and they are busy preparing the car to keep it on the road as much as possible. They are very positive about trying new things with the car, adjusting some settings and taking some measurements from which they can learn new things. So, they are all very positive about the learning experience and they are taking that away as part of their academic career."
Of the 26 cars that set off in the 'Challenger class' only 15 remain. Although there were setbacks, the design of Naledi's solar array proved exceedingly effective when the weather allowed, generating an average of 900 W and an exemplary 1.1 kW in very favourable conditions through its 4 m² solar array. The team will use the remaining period of the race to further test and improve Naledi.
The challenge is far from over.
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