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SA solar challenge: Battery-powered Beetle to take on 6000km journey

2016-09-21 10:55

SOLAR RACE: The team behind the electric Beetle 'ZingBug' hopes to complete a 6000km using solar power. Image: Réhann Coetzee

Réhann Coetzee

Pretoria - A small car with a big electric heart will take on rivals at the 2016 Sasol Solar Challenge.

Alongside other solar vehicles will be the ZingBug, a VW Beetle from the 70s - although the drivetrain will be much newer than the original design.

The Challenge starts on September 24 in Pretoria and draws to a close in Cape Town on October 1, taking teams through Kroonstad, Bloemfontein, Graaff-Reinet, Port Elizabeth, Sedgefield and Swellendam along the way. The top teams are expected to reach a total distance of 6000km.

Electric propulsion

Instead of the original boxer engine with its well-known sound, the ZingBug has an electric motor that will provide the propulsion.

Santa Scheepers is the woman behind this electric car and participating in the Challenge is part of the research and development into converting Beetles into affordable electric vehicles. 

READ: Stranger agrees to restore this driver's classic 1973 VW Beetle

Image: Réhann Coetzee

The ZingBug has a 48-volt electric motor, but due to the draw on battery reserves in stop-start conditions, André Reyneke of Miser Hybrid Transmissions is supplying a hydraulic motor to assist the electric motor. The hydraulic motor stores energy, from both engine optimisation and regenerative braking, as compressed gas in an accumulator.

The computerised Miser management system then decides which power source to use. The ZingBug takes part in the Sustainability Fleet class and is allowed to recharge at any time.

Gallery: Electric Beetle Challenge - Zingbug

André Nel of Green Tower developed technology to enhance the efficiency of solar power and will supply the management system that will optimise the solar-panel side of the recharging station.

The Sasol Solar Challenge is held every two years and attracts entries from all over the world. Eight of this year’s 14 entries are from South Africa.

About the Sasol Solar Challenge

The Sasol Solar Challenge is a biennial competition aimed at showcasing the power of alternative energy. Emphasising engineering and design, the competition gives South African and international innovators and university students in the disciplines of science, engineering and technology an opportunity to showcase their ingenuity by designing world-class solar-powered vehicles.

READ: At 328km/h this is the world's fastest VW Beetle

Participating teams are expected to design, build, and manage their solar-powered vehicles as they race across the South African terrain, covering a distance of at least 1000km of varying road conditions.

The Sasol Solar Challenge 2016 promises to be the best event yet, characterised by strong contenders and world-class engineering. This is truly where engineering meets innovation.

Team Zingbug. Image: Réhann Coetzee

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