FINE EFFORT: The team from North West University came fourth in the competition and were the South African team which covered the most distance. Here they celebrate at the V&A in their fourth position in Cape Town. Picture: Barry Aldworth.

Cape Town - Teams from across the globe have been awarded for their achievements in the Sasol Solar Challenge, which saw them travel through the country in solar cars in a bid to cover as much distance as possible.

The awards ceremony was held at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town on Sunday. The 10 teams consisting of university students and one school team were also recognised for their contribution to the innovation and development of solar technology.

Dutch team Nuon from Delft University in The Netherlands won the competition after covering 4716.7km over the eight days, setting a new record for the furthest distance ever covered in the challenge.

Team manager Sjoerd Stevens dedicated the win to their coach who died two years ago. “He was so much more than our team coach. He really wanted the future to be so much more sustainable. A project like this, where all these people come together and drive solar cars… that was his vision. It’s amazing to have so many people here with the same goal in mind,” he said.

Nuon also set a new record for the furthest distance travelled in a single day - 707.3km.

The Tokai University Solar Team from Japan came second while the Hungarian team, GAMF, came third. A South African team from the North West University came fourth and were the local team that covered the most distance with 3524.9km - the furthest travelled by any South African team. They also broke the South African record for the most distance covered in one day - 611km.

Lodz Solar Team from Poland were the first team to ever compete in the South African competition with a car in the cruiser class, which catered for a passenger and luggage space, unlike the race cars in the challenger class. They set the cruise class record at 2817.8km, while Maragon Private School Olympus, the only school team to participate in the challenge, set the school team record at 1329.1km.

Challenging the status quo

The challenge ended at the V&A Waterfront on Saturday evening and a party broke out as teams celebrated having travelled a combined total of over 27 000km.

Teams started the challenge in Pretoria a week earlier and travelled through towns across Gauteng, the Free State, Eastern Cape and Western Cape.

Chris Selwood, president elect of the International Solarcar Federation and director of the World Solar Challenge, explained why the event was important. “We need innovative thinking that is not prescribed to. We’re about challenging the status quo in areas of energy storage and application, and it only comes with a greater understanding of the physics involved.”

“This event encourages clever people to come up with solutions to sustainability issues. Many of the bright young people who find this event attractive go on to leading high-tech companies,” Selwood said.

Wrenelle Stander, the senior vice-president of public affairs at Sasol said: “The Sasol Solar Challenge optimises what can be achieved with ingenuity, teamwork and sheer determination.”

She said that the aim of the biennial event was to promote research into sustainable transport and also to spark interest in school children in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics fields.

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