Edited by Eamonn Ryan

Warren Hurter’s interest is in the solar sector, with a core focus on transportation.

Warren Hurter. Image supplied by RACA Journal

Warren Hurter. Image supplied by RACA Journal

“My interest started at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) many moons ago, where I was part of a team developing solar-powered racing cars, which was a lot of fun.” The Solar Car Project at UJ was to promote the development of sustainable engineering design, efficient energy use, environmental awareness and innovation. This project involved the development of ultra lightweight and efficient vehicles for UJ to compete in the Shell Eco-Marathon. “While at varsity, I successfully built seven such vehicles manufactured from carbon fibre,” he says.

It served UJ as a platform to promote science, technology and engineering as an exciting career choice, with the primary purpose being to deliver engineering graduates who are equipped to deal with the many challenges in energy innovation.

The 2015 African Solar Drive kicked off in June and saw Ilanga II, the UJ Energy Movement’s solar powered electric car, traverse the northern parts of South Africa and cross the border into Namibia and Botswana, gathering and analysing data along the way. The team also successfully engaged with local communities to raise awareness around green technology.

The route commenced in Kimberley, continuing through to Upington, Keetmanshoop, Rehoboth, Windhoek, Walvis Bay, Swakopmund, Buitepos, Kang to finish in Gaborone. Along the way the team faced several technical challenges which led to some innovative on-the-road engineering feats including redesigning and manufacturing internal components in Windhoek to optimise the motor for the road conditions. This taught the team a valuable lesson in trouble shooting, says Hurter.

The 2015 African Solar Drive was a great initiative for not only promoting solar energy and green technology, but also because it raised awareness around fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics with hundreds of scholars along the way. The project provided opportunities for UJ’s community engagement team to actively engage with schools and local communities through public lectures. “This was an experience like no other,” said Hurter at the time, as team and technology manager. “Seeing the young children’s faces when they saw the car for the first time and having the team see their responses, and for them to realise that this is more than a car. They should feel privileged to be a part of something like this that inspires others. In the end this showed. We finished the trip with a clinical and motivated team who took ownership of the project and will take it forward to the next solar challenge with new ideas and a drive
to be the best.”

In his further studies, he has contributed to research papers on a number of topics: ‘Investigating the effects of composite materials in solar cell encapsulation’, ‘A sustainable model for problem-based learning in South African schools’, while his masters’ research paper was on ‘Analysing a design and technology development framework through the implementation of a prototype composite vehicle suspension system’.

Today, Hurter has a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, and is currently completing his MBA. Following university, he started his professional career continuing to develop prototype electric and hybrid race vehicles, and thereafter working in the product development space. He now co-owns two companies developing automotive and commercial solar, as well as optimisation solutions for the likes of Shoprite Checkers, Coca-Cola and numerous others. He has continued breaking new ground in South Africa on the design and development of solar systems for refrigerated transport with his partners in NextDrive, of which he is co-founder and technical director. “Such systems boast efficiencies exceeding 90%, compared to traditional engines maxing out at around 25%, in addition, the reduction in moving parts contributes to lower maintenance requirements.”