In celebration of women’s month in South Africa, the Sasol Solar Challenge is shining a spotlight to the women who are behind the wheels of the solar cars that will be competing in this year’s event.

The three women represent returning and first-time participating teams in the Sasol Solar Challenge. Additionally, to operating the cutting-edge technologies, they also contributed with their engineering skills to the design and building of the solar cars.

Driver One

Name: Monica Van Der Walt 

Team: University of the Free State

Country: South Africa

Monica Van Der Walt is currently doing a Master’s Degree in Solid State Physics at the University of the Free State. She got involved in the solar car project in 2021 and was excited to be selected as one of the drivers to represent not only the solar car team but all the women in her field.

“I am thrilled and very honoured to be part of the team and most importantly, to be selected as a driver,” she said.

The 2022 Sasol Solar Challenge is the team’s first-ever solar challenge, meaning that, this will be Monica’s first time driving a solar car.

“I look forward to traveling through our beautiful country representing not only the university, but women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) as well,” said Monica.

She added that: “One of my dreams has been to inspire young people, especially women, to follow careers in STEM. Gender stereotypes surrounding STEM related fields are still very prominent in our society today. I believe that in order to overcome this, it is very important for women in STEM to act as role models to young women to encourage them to believe that they are capable of doing anything they set their minds to.”

Monica believes that the Sasol Solar Challenge is a great initiative, which contributes towards the renewable energy movement and aiding in the fight against climate change. 

Driver Two

Name: Zanele Maqache

Team: Seilatsatsi (Central University of Technology)

Country: South Africa

Zanele Maqache is a Lecturer at the Central University of Technology’s Department of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering.

She was selected as a driver because she met all the technical and physical requirements as per the Sasol Solar Challenge regulations.

“I am comfortable behind the wheel, and I enjoy driving. Being selected as a driver was also an opportunity to show the diversity of the team within the different roles. It is important for women who are involved in such projects to be in the forefront as to highlight and promote more involvement of women,” she said.

The team started competing in the Sasol Solar Challenge in 2018, however, this will be Zanele’s first time participating as a driver. Preparing for the challenge, Zanele has been working mainly on her physical endurance and fitness. She is also training on a ‘digital twin’ of the car mimicking different terrains and driving conditions.

“I am very excited and looking forward to the whole experience on the road. Preparing for the challenge has been an opportunity to learn so much and I think this will help me enhance my skills as an engineer. I also look forward to showcasing the ingenuity of our team and showing off the university’s commitment to contributing towards the future of mobility in South Africa,” said Zanele.

She added that: “I hope that the girl learners whom we will meet during the challenge, learn that it is possible to achieve their dreams and goals if they are determined and dedicated. Most importantly, I wish they are inspired and motivated to get involved in STEM and be able to contribute to meaningful solutions for real-world problems.”

Driver Three

Name: Demi Van Kampen

Team: Brunel Solar Team (Delft University)

Country: The Netherlands

Demi Van Kampen is currently doing a Master’s Degree in Industrial Design Engineering (field of product design).

Following multiple tests to select the best drivers for the team, Demi and two other drivers were chosen to represent the team. 

“There was five of us who wanted to be drivers, I’m therefore honoured to have emerged victorious and selected as one of the three drivers. Amongst other qualities, I was selected because I can stay calm during stressful or unexpected situations, and I can also easily follow orders. These two skills are nice to have during an endurance challenge,” she said.

Brunel Solar Team are seven-time global champions of solar challenge. They are also former champions of the 2014, 2016 and 2018 Sasol Solar Challenges.

The 2022 Sasol Solar Challenge is Demi’s first-ever solar challenge.

“I look forward to driving through the different landscapes of South Africa. I am also excited to drive through the different towns and inspire people in getting involved in sustainability and innovation initiatives.

She added that: “The strategy I will mostly focus on while driving our solar car is to stay focused and drive as efficient as possible - not making sudden moves, no abrupt speed changes but stick to the plan of our strategist and drive as many loops as possible.”

Demi hopes to inspire young people, especially girls along the route to pursue STEM careers.

“If you set your mind to it, you can accomplish anything. A few years ago, I would have never expected to be driving a solar car in South Africa, but here I am today behind the wheel of a cutting-edge technology that is contributing towards the future of mobility globally. It is therefore important to do the things you like and never let anyone stop you,” she said.

Robert Walker, Owner and Director of the Sasol Solar Challenge said: “It’s great to see more women taking on the role of a solar car driver, and most importantly doing what they love at the same time paving the way for young women not only in South Africa but globally.”

Nozipho Mbatha, Senior Manager: Group Brand and Sponsorships at Sasol concurred with Walker and said: “We hope that with more representation and awareness, more young people especially girls, will be inspired and eventually we’ll see more women brought in and getting more involved in the most technical parts of designing, building and operating these solar cars.”

Spectators are welcome at all stops, and more information on the route and the teams can be found at: or on social media:




Tuesday, August 30, 2022