Pretoria - Teams will leave Pretoria on 22 September to embark on an epic 2500km solar-powered journey to Stellenbosch, stopping in towns along the way to rest and recharge. Those with cars that can make the gruelling journey will cross the finish line on 29 September.
This year's participants include some of the world’s top solar car teams, including current Solar Car World Champions from Delft University in the Netherlands and former world champions, Tokai University from Japan. Interest in solar car racing is gaining speed, as new participants in this year’s event will include teams from City University of Hong Kong (China), Manipal University (India) and the Solar Energy Racers (Switzerland).
Flying the green and gold
South African teams will be looking to show international challengers how things are done. Local entrants include teams from Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) and from North West University.
Newcomers, Seilatsatsi from the Central University of Technology and Sonke – a combined team from St Alban’s College and St Augustine’s LEAP School – are also looking to take on all challengers. It's noteworthy that the South African Solar Challenge is one of only a few where high school teams compete against university students in the same event.
This year's event will test the limits of energy, innovation and technology as teams are challenged by diverse conditions. Baking sun, violent storms, high winds, changing road surfaces and a drop in altitude of nearly 2000 metres will have to be taken into account by team strategists.
Some teams will travel with entire 'weather stations' of their own (and weather strategists who will call the shots as conditions change), which is what makes the Sasol Solar Challenge one of the world's toughest motorised races. And, because of loops built in to this year's route, teams are allowed to repeat circuits as many times as they’re able to. Some of the top teams are expected to breach 5000km on their odometers during the eight day event.
Regulations for this year’s event have changed, making it tougher for teams to achieve the same distances that they did in 2016. This year, cars are only allowed to have solar arrays of 4m², where previously their arrays could be 6m². This is expected to put more pressure on team engineers and strategists to deliver power and range from a smaller array.
Speaking at the launch of the event, Sasol Solar Challenge director and founder Winstone Jordaan said the event continues to inspire students to develop new technologies by creating a competitive environment.
"They contribute to core research on solar technology, including the manufacturing of solar cells, their casing, converters, controllers and electronics. The research done by solar teams has become invaluable to the energy industry,” he said.
Jordaan explained that the Sasol Solar Challenge is a way of bringing top-notch technologies into communities throughout South Africa, making it more accessible and serving as a practical demonstration of their capabilities. To this end, this year's route has evolved from a big loop around the country to a journey from Pretoria through the Free State, Eastern Cape and Western Cape, to a new finish line in Stellenbosch. This will enable more communities to intereact with the teams as they roll down south.
If you'd like to show your support or learn more about racing in solar-powered cars, visit the Sasol Solar Challenge website www.solarchallenge.org.za. You can also follow the event's progress on social media:
Facebook page: SA Solar Challenge
YouTube channel: SASolarChallenge
Twitter handle: @Solar_Challenge
Official hashtag: #SasolSolarChallenge