Tired of seeing their frustrated parents unable to use the train due to power outages and cable theft, twenty South African teenagers decided to build a power rail solar the first in the country.
With the photovoltaic panels placed on the roof, the white and blue train travels on 18-meter test rails in the city of Soshanguve north of the capital Pretoria.
Trains are the cheapest means of transport in South Africa, used mostly by the poor and working classes.
“Our parents don’t use trains anymore (because) of cable theft and power outages,” said 18-year-old Ronnie Masindi, referring to ongoing failures at aging coal plants.
The beleaguered public power supply company, Eskom began imposing intermittent power cuts 15 years ago to prevent a national blackout.
Known locally as “freight sags,” these supply outages have worsened over the years, affecting trade and industry, including the rail network.
The service of the state logistics firm transnet It is also weighed down by the theft of electrical cables that has skyrocketed due to the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.
Faced with this situation, the boys decided to take action on the matter. “Why don’t we create and build a solar power train that uses the sun to move instead of electricity?” they asked, according to Masindi.
The project was full of obstacles. To begin with, production was delayed due to lack of funding until the government decided to contribute.
“It hasn’t been a straight line,” says another student, 17-year-old Lethabo Nkadimeng. “It was like climbing to the highest peak of a mountain,” she adds.
The train that can travel up to 30 kilometers per hour was shown at a recent university innovation exhibition in South Africa.
So far, the prototype has only performed 10 round trips through a 500-meter track installed at the school. The plan is to do more research and present it to the government as a model to adopt.
“We’ve found that if you give suburban students time, resources and some guidance they can do the same as any other student in the world,” said Kgomotso Maimane, the teacher who supervised the project.
The construction of the train, which even has a television to entertain passengers, took two years.