Pretoria - On Saturday 24 September 14 solar-powered race cars will set off on a nearly silent eight day journey from Pretoria to Cape Town, with batteries recharged from sun rays only.
The 2016 edition of the Sasol Solar Challenge - a biennial eco race, which is rated as one of the top events of its kind in the world - will start from Gate 3 at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in Pretoria and then make its way through Kroonstad, Bloemfontein, Gariep Dam, Graaff-Reinet, Port Elizabeth, Sedgefield and Swellendam before finishing at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town on 1 October.
The main route, which is one of the longest in solar racing, is about 2000km, but teams will score bonuses for completing extra loops along the way. Top teams could cover 700km in one day at speeds near 130km/h if the sun cooperates, with total distances approaching 6000km.
The winner will be the team that scores best in terms of average distance, time, lowest consumption and strategic use of battery power.
Eight of the 14 teams are South African, six are from overseas. Most teams are entered by high schools and universities, but one unusual South African entry will see an all-electric VW Beetle take on the fleet of super-aerodynamic creations in its own special Sustainability Class. The Zingbug has a 48 volt electric motor, but due to the draw on battery reserves in stop-start conditions also has an hydraulic motor for assistance.
The hydraulic motor stores energy, from both engine and regenerative braking, as compressed gas in an accumulator. The computerised Miser management system then decides which power source to use.
Win your share of R100 000 in prizes
The Japanese Tokai University team, which won in 2008, 2010 and 2012, uses special solar modules and lithium-ion batteries supplied by Panasonic. The electronics giant is also giving away R100 000 in prizes to members of the public who share pictures under the #MoreSunshine hashtag on the Panasonic South Africa Facebook page.