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Meet The Teams

Some of the world’s top solar car teams will compete in the 2018 Sasol Solar Challenge. Current world leaders and 2016 Sasol Solar Challenge winners, Delft University from the Netherlands, will return to defend their title.

Multiple record holders and winners of the 2008, 2010 and 2012 solar challenges, Tokai University from Japan, will also compete.

Teams from Switzerland, the USA, Hungary, Poland, Turkey and China are also expected to participate.

The South African contingent will be headed up by local champions, North West University. Challenging international teams alongside them will be the Tshwane University of Technology, University of Johannesburg, Vaal University of Technology, Central University of Technology, the University of Cape Town and possibly Stellenbosch and Pretoria Universities. 


Take a look at the teams who competed in the 2016 Sasol Solar Challenge below:

TEAM | Central University of Technology: Seilatsatsi

CAR NAME | Pere ea letstatsi

COUNTRY | South Africa

CLASS | Challenger


Team Seilatsatsi from the Central University of Technology (CUT) is venturing into completely new territory with their entry into this year’s Sasol Solar Challenge.

The South African team of 20 mechanical and electrical engineers have always wanted to build a solar challenger car but have been limited by finances. Now, with support from CUT, the Technology Innovation Agency and the Advanced Energy Foundation, their solar challenge dreams are being realised and they’re working hard to create a car that is as unique as it is competitive.

In a great show of collaboration between the arts and the sciences, the team of engineers has worked with the university’s art and graphic design students to develop branding with an African flavour. Both the car and team names are from local Sesotho mythology.

Seilatsatsi, is based on the story of a chief’s beautiful daughter of the same name. The young girl, who had been warned never to appear in the sun, left her hut in daylight when she fell in love with a young chief from another village.

She immediately turned into a termite hill. But a healer helped reverse the spell, and when she was restored in full sunlight, she was more beautiful than ever before, and brought prosperity to everyone she knew.

The car’s name, Pere ea letsatsi, means ‘horse from the sun’.

Pere ea letsatsi’s design is being kept a tight secret, and the team have promised that it will be completely different from the catamaran shape common to the challenger class. The design was done entirely by CUT students, and the motors and carbon fibre build have been commissioned from outside. The solar array is being built by Gochermann Solar Technology, who have provided several teams with panels in the past.

Extensive testing of the car’s aerodynamics was done with a 3D-printed model before the actual manufacturing started.

Once the car has been built, the team will take it to schools in the Bloemfontein area to share the excitement around technology and engineering.

TEAM | City University of Hong Kong Solar Car Team

CAR NAME | Reysol

COUNTRY | Hong Kong, China

CLASS | Adventure


The Sasol Solar Challenge will be the first event that the City University of Hong Kong solar car team competes in outside their city.

The team is building a two-seater for the Sustainability class category. While the university has been building experimental solar cars since 2015, this is the first time that it is designing a fully roadworthy vehicle to compete in an international event.

The ten engineering students are also supported by their university’s school of creative media, and the business and English departments are helping with admin and communications.

The students on this year’s team met each other virtually through online racing car games when they were teenagers. When they landed up at the same university, they decided to turn their gaming hobby into a solar car project.

Because of their love for classic racing cars, the exterior design of Reysol, the car coming to South Africa, is inspired by classic racing cars from the 1970s. Like an ordinary car, Reysol will include rims, a chassis and suspension repurposed from an old racing car. Unlike their competitors, the team are building a carbon steel body, making their car quite heavy for a solar car.

Reysol weighs 900 kg, which is still much less than normal internal combustion engine vehicles. To carry this weight, the team are fitting two high output motors and a large 18 kW/h GLM battery.

The value of the car is 500,000 Honk Kong Dollars (roughly R860,000).

Because this is the team’s first solar car event, they aren’t aiming to be too competitive. They’ll use the 2018 Sasol Solar Challenge as a learning experience, to test Reysol and collect data with which to attract sponsors for their next, more competitive solar car.

TEAM | North West University Solar Team


COUNTRY | South Africa

CLASS | Challenger


SA’s best team in 2016, the North West University solar car team are back with the goal to improve on the 3 524 km they clocked in the previous Sasol Solar Challenge.

Placing fourth to international teams in 2016, they aim to keep holding their own against the best solar car teams in the world.

To do this they are rebuilding Naledi, which competed in the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. Naledi, which was named after a star, has a Formula One body shape and first-of-its-kind rotating solar panels.

These solar panels are able to follow the sun – eliminating the common problem caused by shade from the car’s own cockpit. The 15-strong team believes that this unusual design may become a feature on solar cars of the future.

While the university is an experienced solar challenge competitor, this year’s team – a third of which are women – is completely new save for their technical manager.

Historically a project for electrical engineering students, the 2018 build team mostly includes mechanical and chemical engineering students.

The 2018 car will be lighter and its centre of gravity closer to the front of the car. An entirely new suspension and steering unit is being designed to reduce vibrations.

Team NWU believes that their unique software – designed by master’s students to measure telemetry - will improve their strategy and give them a competitive edge.

NWU’s other accolades – which they will be aiming for again this year - include the longest daily distance by a South African team in their 2016 car, and awards for professionalism, safety and spirit.

TEAM | Nuon Solar Team


COUNTRY | The Netherlands

CLASS | Challenger


The Nuon Solar Team from the Delft University of Technology are the current world champions as well as the title defenders of the Sasol Solar Challenge in South Africa.

This is the third time the team is participating in the Sasol Solar Challenge, and they hope to make it the third time that they win it, too. They covered 4 716 km in 2016.

Nuna9S will be fitted with a 2,64 m² Gallium Arsenide solar array. The car uses the chassis of its predecessor, Nuna9, which won the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge last year.    

A completely new team will pilot the car coming to South Africa, and they are working on improving its design and performance. For the first time, the team includes a software engineer, working on a new onboard computer system for Nuna9S.

The ten team members have been working on the car full time since their graduation in August 2017, with degrees ranging from aerospace engineering to mechanical and electrical engineering, and applied physics.

To build camaraderie, they also regularly do fun team building activities together, like ice skating or gliding.

 Two team members supported the 2017 challenge to gain experience for upcoming events.

Because the Netherlands is a fairly flat country, Nuon’s three drivers have been practising at one of the country’s few hilly race tracks to prepare for the mountainous terrain and 2 000 metre altitude drop they’ll experience on the Sasol Solar Challenge. The team says they’re working on new technology, but for now, these innovations are closely guarded secrets.

TEAM | Solar Energy Racers (SER)


COUNTRY | Switzerland

CLASS | Challenger


Unlike most other teams, the Solar Energy Racers consist mostly of 16 – 18-year-old enthusiasts from a small village in Switzerland called Uzwil. The teenagers are sheet metal, electrical and mechanical design apprentices at the Bühler Group factory – a Swiss technology company.

The Solar Energy Racers team has been competing in solar car events across the globe since 2011. However, none of them are full-time solar car racers, and there are no monetary benefits or academic outputs generated by their work. They are all simply volunteers who work on the car after hours in an old garage, and joke that they’re the “low budget, grass roots, garage team”.

Despite this, the team has racked up accolades in their seven years of competing, most notably a top-five finish at the 2013 World Solar Challenge across Australia, second-place finish in the 2014 European Solar Challenge, and a runner-up in the 2016 American Solar Challenge.

The apprentices get assistance from a handful of academics from ETH Zurich University and the ZHAW Zurich University of Applied Sciences, as well as coaching from experts at the Bühler Group.

The team is building a new car, SER-3, for the 2018 Sasol Solar Challenge’s updated regulations. The car’s shell is made from carbon fibre and resin lamination, and will only weight about 140 kg. The students do most of the manufacturing themselves, but the drive motor, solar array and battery packs are being bought. Their budget is just shy of 160 000 Swiss Francs (roughly R2,2 million).

Because the team members are so young, they face the unusual challenge of not having many drivers to choose from - most of them are too young to have their licenses! A handful of older team members, who are also light enough to be drivers, will take on this responsibility.

The Solar Energy Racers keep their spirits high by having a meeting every single Thursday to discuss progress. They’re also supported by their entire village. While Uzwil locals can’t help financially, they contribute manpower, nuts and bolts, and the local chocolate manufacturer makes sure they have enough chocolate to power through the late nights of hard work!

TEAM | Sonke

CAR NAME | Siyakude!

COUNTRY | South Africa

CLASS | Challenger


Sonke is a high school team from South Africa competing for the very first time in any solar car event.

Fifty students aged 13 to 19 from St Alban’s College and St Augustine’s LEAP School have come together to build their very own challenger to compete with in 2018.

Sonke means “together”, while the car name Siyakude! means “we will go far”.

The students are designing and building the car from scratch themselves. To guide them, the schools have set up a steering committee of parents, staff and former students who have expertise in aerodynamics, mechanics and electrical engineering.

The team has been on two special camps dedicated to preparing for the Sasol Solar Challenge. In this dedicated space, they’ve designed the car, tested the wheels and solar panels, and been mentored in soldering, crimping, connecting batteries and programming the onboard telemetry system. They’ve also gone through extensive safety briefings.

The build is also being used as material for their regular curriculum. In one of the school’s science labs, car designs are scribbled on a glass window, and a square box covered in fibre glass is evidence of the team practising their fibre-glassing skills.

St Alban’s science teacher and Sonke team manager, Rob Lodge, let the students chose from three different chassis types for their challenger. They chose a Formula V type chassis because it is light and aerodynamic.

The kids first built a wooden model of the car. They then tested wheels and solar panels before building its body. They’re getting outside help for the more complicated parts of the build, like welding the chassis.

The learning doesn’t stop with the Sonke team. Along the route, they’ll do solar power demonstrations using solar-powered toy cars for schools in the hope of inspiring the future generation of engineers.

This is the only school team participating in this year’s Sasol Solar Challenge.

TEAM | Tokai University Solar Car Team

CAR NAME | Tokai Challenger


CLASS | Challenger


The Tokai University solar car team are veterans of the Sasol Solar Challenge, having taken part every year except 2014.

The Japanese team was the challenge’s first international entrant in 2008, winning the inaugural event. They went on to be a strong competitor, winning multiple challenges in SA and globally.

This year they will compete with the Tokai Challenger that was built for the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge last year – where they placed fourth.

The Tokai team are abandoning the typical challenge catamaran-shape this year, challenging themselves to push the limits of technology. Their new mono-hull shape has completed more than 3 000 km, and testing shows good aerodynamics and stability.

The university collaborates with several Japanese companies, and while everything is designed by them, the carbon fibre body is manufactured by the Toray group, and the silicon solar array comes from the team’s main sponsor, Panasonic.

The 170 kg Tokai Challenger has also been fitted with a new motor which is so efficient that less than 5% of the solar power generated through the arrays is lost once it’s converted by the motor.

The team has 60 members, of which two are veterans. General manager Professor Hideki Kimura has been part of the team since its inception in 1991. Kohei Sagawa is a veteran driver, having driven in more than 12 solar challenges. This year he’ll share driving duties with three new students.

TEAM | Tshwane University of Technology Solar Team

CAR NAME | Sun Chaser III

COUNTRY | South Africa

CLASS | Challenger


The Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) team is competing in the Sasol Solar Challenge for the fourth time this year.

Their new car, Sun Chaser III, will be substantially different to the 2016 car, which did a total distance of 2 200 km. The team has been working on the new, roughly R2 million car for more than a year, making improvements to its weight and aerodynamics.

To make it lighter, the heavy steel suspension has been replaced with aluminium and carbon fibre. The two motors have been replaced by a single, more powerful motor, which has cut 20 kg. Even the electrical system has been refitted with lighter wires, and a number of components have been removed, shaving another 5 kg off its weight.

To test the aerodynamics, TUT built a 3:1 scale model of the car and tested it in the University of Southampton’s wind tunnel in the UK. Based on these results, the designers reduced the openings of the wheel arches, changed the car’s wing shape, and crafted the cockpit canopy in the shape of a teardrop.

Top of the range Michelin tyres imported from France will help reduce friction on the road.

The TUT team is proud to have done the majority of their own design and manufacturing on site, however, the solar array, electric motor and charge controllers have been specially purchased. Sun Chaser III will have 257 mono-crystalline solar cells making up its solar array.

To prevent the entire array from shutting down when a single cell is in the shade of a tree, a passer-by’s hand, or its own cockpit, TUT has included bypass diodes in parts of the array so that sections can operate independently.

For the first time this year, the chase car - which follows behind the solar car when it’s on the road - will send optimal speed values to the solar car driver on an LCD screen on the steering wheel. In previous years, this was done over radio conversations!

Solar cars contribute significantly to global research and development of energy systems and aerodynamics, and one Sun Chaser III team member’s doctorate thesis on energy management and estimation will be informed by the lessons learnt in 2018.

TEAM | Cape Peninsula University of Technology

CAR NAME | CPUT Solar Flyers

COUNTRY | South Africa

CLASS | Challenger

The CPUT Solar Flyers team, from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, is expanding their horizons and is amongst some of the first-time contenders in this year’s Sasol Solar Challenge.

The team is funded by the South African Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), and consists of two mechatronics students, seven mechanical students, and a public relations and marketing student, who is one of the two females in the team.

The CPUT Solar Flyer will be steered by four drivers, of which one is the only woman on the team. The car name, Solar Flyer, is inspired by its tear-drop shaped body that resembles an aircraft with a wing. The shape is designed to reduce aerodynamic drag, and the tilting photovoltaic solar panels mounted above the body are vital in harnessing solar power with changing conditions during the event. The car has four hub motors mounted in the wheels, and a dynamite pack Life 04 battery.

The car body is made from carbon fibre, moulded to aluminium space frames made from a tubing covering. A poly-fibre process is a fitting option as it is used in the manufacturing of light aircraft, and provides a durable protective layer in severe operating conditions.

The team has encountered stumbling blocks in their expedition to the Sasol Solar Challenge, from attaining battery suppliers, and having to change the design of the wheel carriers and suspension.

However, with great tenacity, the team is optimistic and thrilled to be part of their very first Sasol Solar Challenge.