Meteomatics AG, the Swiss-based global weather company and provider of industry leading solar forecasts, is delighted to announce the sponsorship of Tshwane University Solar Car Team, competing in South Africa’s Sasol Solar Challenge.

The South African based Sasol Solar Challenge is one of the most notorious, as the route offers unique and challenging geographical characteristics as well as a rare race structure whereby the aim is to cover the furthest distance possible in eight days! 

The challenge requires teams to design, build, manage and race solar vehicles from Pretoria (inland) across South Africa towards Cape Town (coastal). Along the route, teams have to carefully plan their race strategy, as the landscape changes from a vast flat topography to mountainous regions ascending and descending hundreds of meters. The route also offers a broad spectrum of weather conditions, leading to challenging situations with at least a day or two of rain including some cloudy and very windy routes.

Understanding and accurately determining the weather forecast, particularly the amount of sunshine is critical to the Tshwane University Solar Team.  Tiaan Oosthuizen (Tshwane University of Technology Team Member & PhD student) said that “ Meteomatics provides the perfect solution, supplying the required weather parameters in variable resolutions, down to 90 metres allowing us to accurately determine weather conditions during the race and even take into account shadows created by buildings & Mountainous terrain that be a real problem along the route. Whats amazing is that all the forecasting capability is delivered by a simple API integrated directly into our Matlab script.

Simplicity and ease of use of the weather API, allows the team to integrate Meteomatics weather forecasts into their race planning and integrate with other data sets used to inform decision making.

The need for a script based recursive optimization algorithm pushed the Sun Chaser III Team to develop a custom script in Matlab. As the weather changes and more accurate updates about future weather becomes available, the automated script has to retrieve this data, pre-process and fit to an appropriate curve for use by the algorithm. Thus the need for an API (application program interface) to import the weather data from a web based server directly into the script for processing becomes a very attractive solution by bypassing process intensive imports from for instance .CSV files and other formats which weather data is normally presented in. 

Meteomatics provides the perfect solution by being able to supply the required forecasted weather parameters in variable resolutions all through an uncomplicated API integrated directly into the Matlab script. Meteomatics provides all the weather parameters the team needs and many more, some of which might be included in future script versions such as being able to calculate the air density (affects the aerodynamic drag components) variation along the chosen route.

Every decision made by the team is crucial and can have a ripple effect on the remaining race days to come. Mathematically modelling the vehicle ensures that the energy consuming components are identified, but this is but a small fraction of what is needed to really make good, informed decisions about the solar vehicle’s energy management strategy. The weather plays such a big role and accurate solar as well as wind forecasts are needed up to eight days into the future to ensure a better understanding of the weather for the entire race/route.

Meteomatics sponsorship of the TUT team and provision of highly accurate weather data, will allow the TUT team to use their advanced route planning for their solar vehicle in the upcoming 2021 Sasol Solar Challenge. Tiaan Oosthuizen added that “the combined use of Meteomatics data, which is a very accurate and provides a stable platform for weather data, together with my algorithms, will give us an edge, significantly improving the performance of our solar car, compared to 2019,”