Pretoria, South Africa – The Sasol Solar Challenge set off from Pretoria this morning as Solly Msimanga, executive mayor of the City of Tshwane, waved the solar cars onto the road.
“This event represents ingenuity, efficiency, hard work and cutting-edge technology,” said mayor Msimanga. “It’s everything we need in the city of Tshwane, and we’re proud to once again host the Sasol Solar Challenge start.”
Five South African teams are taking on solar cars from Japan, Hong Kong, the Netherlands and Switzerland as they put chase through the country, powered only by the African sun.
“This is an incredibly challenging event, and we commend all the competitors who have spent months building solar cars and planning for the tough route through South Africa,” said Winstone Jordaan, Sasol Solar Challenge founder and director.
International and local solar car teams will battle it out on South African roads as they try to clock more than 4,500 km of solar-powered distance on the 2018 Sasol Solar Challenge. The current record, held by Dutch team Nuon, was set in 2016 at 4,716 kilometres.
The 2018 event marks a decade of solar car challenges in South Africa, as it runs for the sixth time. The Sasol Solar Challenge sees solar-powered cars from across the world compete to cover the biggest distance across public roads, heading from Pretoria to Sasolburg, heading through Bloemfontein to Gariep Dam, and on to Middelburg and Graaff-Reinet.
From there, the convoy of more than 300 people will head to Port Elizabeth, Kareedouw and Sedgefield before passing through Cape Agulhas, the furthest south that the event has ever gone. Finally, having done between 2,000 and 4,000 kilometres by this point, teams will push through Swellendam to the finish line in Stellenbosch.
The event has been sponsored by Sasol since 2012, as part of its commitment to furthering science, technology, engineering and maths education and inspiring learners to pursue technical careers.
“Everybody involved in the Sasol Solar Challenge is at the top of their game and aiming for constant innovation as they test ideas and technology in tough real-world conditions,” said Elton Fortuin, Sasol’s Vice President of Group Communication and Brand Management. “This is the commitment and skill and energy which we recognise at Sasol, and which we hope to inspire young people across South Africa with.”
Participants this year include current world champions Nuon from Delft University in The Netherlands and former world champions Tokai University from Japan. For the first time, South Africa also hosts the City of University from Hong Kong, and the Solar Energy Racers from Switzerland.
South African universities and even a high school also featured strongly on the starting grid this morning. Tshwane University of Technology set off to cheers from their home ground, and global competitors North West University hit the road with a brand new solar car, developed especially for the Sasol Solar Challenge. They’re joined by newcomers from the Central University of Technology in Bloemfontein, the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, and Sonke Siyakunde, a high school team with learners from St Alban’s College and St Augustine’s LEAP school.
South Africa is one of only a few countries where high school teams compete in what is typically a university challenge, despite which this young team placed third on the line-up.
“We’re very proud of the team – they’ve been working hard for months, and to qualify ahead of universities is an honour. Despite that, we chose to leave last on the start line this morning,” said Rob Lodge, team manager and teacher at St Alban’s College. “Our schools came out early this morning to support us – and that was far more important to us than the time we’d gain by leaving before other teams.”
The next town on the route today is Sasolburg, where teams will set up a pit stop control area to support their car as it goes out on as many laps of the midday loop as possible. From about 15h00, teams will set off to the evening stop in Kroonstad, before doing it all over tomorrow on the road to Bloemfontein.