A group of university students and lecturers are on a road trip of a different kind as they travel over 4 000km to test out their solar powered car – the Ilanga II fuelled only by the sun, writes JENNI EVANS.
Solar panels? Check. Ion batteries? Check. 3D printer for spares? Check. A group of university students and lecturers are on a road trip of a different kind as they travel over 4 000km to test out their solar powered car the Ilanga II fuelled on nothing by good old sunshine.
“It can do up to 140km/h,” says Nickey Janse van Rensburg, who lectures mechanical engineering at the University of Johannesburg’s Energy Movement lab.
“Because we don’t have a lot of sun today we are doing 90km/h,” she said from the convoy snaking toward the Northern Cape town of Kimberley to show off the vehicle named after the Zulu word for sun.
And every time they stop, they draw a crowd of people keen to see what can be done by a group of bright sparks looking for clean green alternatives.
Resembling a cross between a space pod and a yacht, the aerodynamic lines of the orange and white Ilanga II draws delighted crowds wherever she pulls up. And that is exactly what the university wants – for people in the towns and rural villages along the route to see how green technology can be used in every day life.
Says Janse van Rensburg, the Ilanga II could even be plugged into a wall like a cellphone, if needed, to charge.
The Solar Car Project promotes the study and development of efficient energy use, environmental awareness, energy management and innovative engineering.
On Thursday the residents of Klerksdorp who arrived with their children at the team’s leg-stretching and system-tweaking stop at the Mitsubishi garage were intrigued by what they saw. Her “engine” is 300 lithium ion batteries which work almost like cellphone batteries, and almost 1 000 business card-sized thin solar panels.
Along the route, even mayors have come out to welcome the team which is happy to explain how everything works and tell people about other ways of using “green” technology in their every day life.
And of course, everyone wants to see some laps and they are not disappointed. And then it’s go time again.
Warren Hurter, engineering project manager at the university’s manufacturing research centre, is one of the three drivers taking turns on the test run.
He explains that the solar panels on top of the vehicle convert the energy from the sun into power in the battery packs.
The solar panels are similar to the solar cards that powered the Mars Rover which wheeled around the red planet looking for signs of water activity, its solar panel “wings” capturing enough energy during the four-hour Mars day to enable it to explore, and communicate with the team on Earth.
The Ilanga II’s tool box is a 3D printer which will be used to replace parts it might need for running repairs. The 3D printer has already produced the steering interface, the buttons, the battery holder and the brackets for the roof panel.
“We haven’t needed to use it as yet,” said Hurter.
They have had a small suspension problem so far, and when they started their journey in Johannesburg the telemetry system which measures the car’s performance was playing up.
“But that’s all part of the experience,” says Hurter who says he was the kid who played with Lego and pulled things apart to spend hours figuring out how to put it all back together again.
Camping along the way they have a support team which stays up until late making adjustments to the vehicle.
The Ilanga II is their third solar-powered car after the Ilanga and the Ilanga 1. Their team hopes to take her to next year’s Sasol Solar Car Challenge where the Ilanga 1.1 scooped the Technology and Innovation Award previously. Local and international solar car developers compete in that race between Pretoria and Cape Town as part of their work on improving the technology and to share ideas.
The race to find energy efficient alternatives has already given rise to the electric hybrids already on the consumer market.
Because the Ilanga II is built around efficiency, it only takes one driver. The team scanned the shape of one of the drivers, placed it into the vehicle and built it around his shape. So only drivers with his shape will fit into her.
The department partnered with UJ’s Prof Vivian Alberts at PTiP Innovations, who developed and internationally patented the thin film photovoltaic technology used on the car. These are very thin solar panels which they hope to pilot in rural communities in the near future, according to the university’s website.
Hurter says the car does not have any luxuries apart from indicators and headlights. The only radio is the two-way radio the team uses to communicate. It is a bit noisy on the inside because it does not have the sound padding that cars usually have, but from the outside, it is very quiet, and has no emissions.
The project has sponsorship from companies such as Eskom and Siemens, and a support convoy provided by Mitsubishi which also wants the crew to log their vehicles’ fuel efficiency for its own studies.
And when will be able drive one? Not in the near future. The Ilanga II Solar Car Project is not being built for sale, but for now is being used to research and develop sustainable and green engineering that can be used in the real world.
They already have plans to introduce the technology to power village pumps.
Spectators can look forward to seeing Ilanga II at pit stops and lectures along its route which will include a trip through Namibia and Botswana.
Her itinerary is: Friday, June 19: Kimberley – Upington (Public Lecture)
Saturday, June 20: (Upington) – Hakskeen Pan – Rietfontein Border Control – KeetmansHoop
Sunday, June 21: Keetmanshoop – Mariental – Rehoboth
Monday, June 22: Rehoboth – Windhoek (Public Lecture)
Tuesday, June 23: Windhoek– Swakopmund – Walvis Bay
Wednesday, June 24: Walvis Bay – Swakopmund
Thursday, June 25: Swakopmund – Windhoek – Buitepos
Friday, June 26: Buitepos – Kang
Saturday, June 27: Kang – Sekoma – Kanye – Gaborone
Sunday, June 28: Gaborone Day (Public Lecture)
Monday, June 29: Gaborone – UJ Solar Lab.
Like UJ Solar Car on Facebook or follow them @UJSolarCar on Twitter.
Android Go puts reliable smartphones in budget pockets
Nokia, Vodacom and Huawei have all launched entry-level smartphones running the Android Go edition, and all deliver a smooth experience, writes BRYAN TURNER.
Three new and notable Android Go smartphones have recently hit the market, namely the Nokia 1, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 and the Huawei Y3 (2018). These phones run one of the most basic versions of Android while still delivering a fairly smooth user experience.
Historically, consumers purchasing smartphones in the budget bracket would have a hit-and-miss experience with processing speed, smoothness of user interface, and app stability. The Google-supported Android Go edition operating system optimises the user experience by stripping out non-important visual effects to speed up the phone. Thish allows for more memory to be used by apps.
Google also ensures that all smartphones running Android Go will receive feature and security updates as they are released by Google. This is a major selling point for these smartphones, as users of this smartphone will always be running the latest software, with virtually no manufacturer bloatware.
Vodafone Smart Kicka 4
At the lowest entry-level, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performs well as a communicator for emails and WhatsApp messages. The 4” screen represents a step up for entry-level Android phones, which were previously standardised at 3.5”.
The display is bright and very responsive, while the limited screen real estate leaves the navigation keys off the screen as touch buttons. It uses 3G connectivity, which might seem like an outdated technology, but is good enough to stream SD videos and music. Vodacom has also thrown in some data gifts if the smartphone is activated before the end of September 2018.
Its camera functionalities might be a slight let down for the aspirant Instagrammer, with a 2MP rear flash camera and a 0.3MP selfie snapper. Speed wise, the keyboard pops up quickly, which is a huge improvement from the Smart Kicka 3. However, this phone will not play well with graphics-intensive games.
Next up is the Nokia 1, which adds a much better 5MP camera, improved battery life and a bigger 4.5” screen. It supports LTE, which allows this smartphone to download and upload at the speed of flagships. It also sports the Nokia brand name, which many consumers trust.
Although the front camera is 2MP, the quality is extremely grainy, even with good lighting. This disqualifies this smartphone for the social media selfie snapper, but the 5MP rear camera will work for the landscape and portrait photographer.
The screen also redeems this smartphone, providing a display which represents colours truly and has great viewing angles. Xpress-on back covers allows the use of interchangeable, multi-coloured back covers, which has proven to be a successful sales point for mid-range smartphones in the past.
Huawei Y3 (2018)
The most capable of the Android Go edition competitors, the Huawei Y3 (2018) packs an even bigger screen at 5”, as well as an improved 8MP rear camera and HD video recording. The screen is the brightest and most vibrant of the three smartphones, but seems to be calibrated to show colours a little more saturated than they actually are.
Nevertheless, the camera outperforms the other smartphones with good colour replication and great selfie capabilities via the 2MP front camera – far superior to the Nokia 1 despite the same spec. LTE also comes standard with this smartphone and Vodacom throws in 4G/LTE data goodies until the end of September 2018. The battery, however, is not removable and may only be replaced by a warranty technician.
Comparing the 3
All three smartphones have removable back covers, which provide access to the battery, SIM card and SD card slots. The smartphones have Micro USB ports on the bottom with headphone jacks on the top. The built-in speakers all performed well, with the Y3 (2018) housing an exceptionally loud built-in speaker.
Although all at different price points, all three phones remain similar in performance and speed. The differentiators are apparent in the components, like camera quality and screen quality. It would be fair to rank the quality of the camera and battery life by respective market prices. The Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performed well, for its R399 retail price. The Nokia 1, on the other hand, lags quite a bit in features when compared to the Huawei Y3 (2018), bwith oth retailing at R999.
SA gets digital archive
As the world entered the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth on Mandela Day, 18 July 2018, South Africa celebrated the launch of a digital living archive.
The southafrica.co.za site carries content about the country’s collective heritage in South Africa’s eleven official languages.
Designed as a nation building, educational and brand promotion web based tool, the free-to-view platform features award-winning photographic and written content by leading South African photographers, authors, academics and photojournalists.
The emphasis is on quality, credible, factual content that celebrates a collective heritage in terms of the following: Cultural Heritage; Natural Heritage; Education; History; Agriculture; Industry; Mining; and Travel.
At the same time as reflecting on the nation’s history, southafrica.co.za celebrates South Africa’s natural, cultural and economic assets so that the youth can learn about their nation in their home language.
Southafrica.co.za Founder and CEO Hans Gerrizen conceptualised southafrica.co.za as a means for youth and communities from outlying areas to benefit from the digital age in terms of the web tool’s empowering educational component.
“We can only stand to deepen our collective experience of democracy and become a more forward planning nation if we know facts about our nation’s past and present in everyone’s home language,” he says.
Southafrica.co.za, with sister company Siyabona Africa, is the organiser and sponsor of the Mandela: 100 Moments photographic exhibition that runs until 30 September at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront-based Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island. The 3-month exhibition, which runs daily from 08h00 until 15h00, is showcasing one hundred iconic Nelson Mandela images taken by veteran South African photojournalist and self-taught lensman Peter Magubane.