The Sasol Solar Challenge kicked off this morning as the new mayor of Tshwane waved the solar-powered cars over the start line at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
The futuristic solar-powered cars were built all by students from all over the world, including teams from South African universities and high schools.
One local team from North-West University took to the hot tarmac this morning despite an accident on the racetrack during scrutineering this week. The team of students, supported by Sasol Solar Challenge teams from all over the world, spent the last 24 hours repairing the damage on their high-tech car in order to compete this morning.
The challenge takes place over eight days between Pretoria and Cape Town, covering more than 2,000 kilometres, with some teams clocking as much as 4,000 kilometres on option loops on the routes. The aim is to cover as much distance as possible powered by the African sun.
The solar cars typically weigh around 200kg and come up to knee height, with the distinctive solar panel arrays wrapped over the top of the vehicle. Each solar car has a single driver, and the vehicles are built for optimum aerodynamic efficiency.
The event, which is open to the public and media, is sponsored by Sasol as a showcase of cutting edge science and engineering. These highly competitive teams travel through the country, inspiring young South Africans to become engineers and scientists by choosing STEM subjects.
This morning the Tokai Challenger from Japan crossed the start line first, followed by South African and international teams. They were overtaken by the Dutch team Nuon shortly thereafter, but as the Challenge is about distance covered rather than speed, the final standing will only be determined in Kroonstad this evening.
The first day was not without challenges. Four teams had not passed the incredibly gruelling scrutineering process this week, and were therefore only allowed to symbolically cross the start line today. They will present their vehicles for inspection this evening in Kroonstad, the first stop of many on the Sasol Solar Challenge route.
The convoy of more than 350 people will be moving across the country from Pretoria to Cape Town, where the Challenge will end on 1 October at the V&A Waterfront.