Solar-powered car race across South Africa concludes

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

University students from various countries braved highways, mountain ranges and overcast weather from Pretoria to Cape Town to conclude an eight-day race in solar-powered cars they designed.

Engineering students from ten universities started the Sasol Solar Challenge in Pretoria on September 25. They crossed the finish line at the University of Cape Town at the weekend.

The winning team was the one that had clocked up the most mileage during the race. This showed their solar-powered car’s technology was most durable.

Each day, teams took off in a different city or town at 8am and stopped driving at 5:30pm. They drove only during daylight hours, for safety reasons.

If a team reached their daily destination before 5:30pm, its car would be driven on a loop circuit to increase its kilometer reading.

The University of Delft’s team from Delft, in the Netherlands, won the top spot. One of its drivers Arjan van Velzen said they braved “a lot of traffic on the highway in Johannesburg and that was scary”.

In second place was the Anadolu University’s team from Eskisehir in Turkey. Team member Ugur Kotanak said the race was about “using the sun, the most powerful energy we have in the world”.

“Solar panels only store some of the sun’s rays in a battery. The efficiency needs to increase so we can build normal cars that can carry two or three people,” said Kotanak.

“We want to improve the use of solar energy, not only for cars but also in our houses and for other uses. We are thinking about making model planes that use solar energy.”

Kotanak added: “We were driving through rain and clouds, uphill and downhill. This was a real challenge. It showed that solar-powered cars can be used on normal highways.”

The team from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban won third place. Its driver Shuvay Singh said they “didn’t give up” despite an initial delay.

“Our car didn’t work for the first day-and-a-half. The morning of the race our electronics exploded and our car could not move,” he said.

He added: “We built this car from scratch for over a year-and-a-half. We hope to see technology being passed on to car manufacturers.”

The Sasol Solar Challenge is held in South Africa every two years with the aim of enhancing solar powered vehicles.

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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