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Sun-powered technology test takes to SA roads in September

Date: 
26 March 2018

The world’s top solar-powered cars go head to head on South Africa’s roads in September 2018 in an epic 2 500 km event that tests the limits of energy innovation and technology.

This year’s Sasol Solar Challenge is the biggest yet, with up to 15 international teams and strong local contenders competing for the trophy.

The event is a live testing laboratory for new technologies and in 2018 will feature innovative cars with hand-woven solar panels, sophisticated weather monitoring systems and 3D-printed parts. The cars will also boast more efficient electrical systems and batteries.

Local and international teams set off from Pretoria on 22 September and finish in Stellenbosch on 29 September after traversing a challenging route through mountains, deserts, cities and small towns.

“This is a test of tenacity, endurance, logistics and innovation,” says Winstone Jordaan, Sasol Solar Challenge director and founder.

Dutch team Nuon will return in 2018 to defend their title and attempt to break their record from 2016 – when they covered 4 716 km using only the power of the African sun.

The 2018 event marks a decade of serious solar car challenges in SA, as the event runs for the sixth time.   

“From humble beginnings with amateur local solar cars in 2008, the Sasol Solar Challenge is now a big international event which draws top global teams and is eagerly awaited by thousands of people in towns across SA,” says Jordaan.

SA teams are becoming more competitive, with North West University coming fourth in 2016 by completing 3 524 km. High school team Maragon Olympus beat the University of Johannesburg by a nail-biting 40 km.

Teams from South Africa, Australia, China, Japan, The Netherlands, and the USA are expected in 2018.

Their challenge is to travel as far as possible along a set route each day, maximising the energy they can draw from every ray of sunlight. It’s a test of technology, driving, team support, logistics, electronics and strategy.

Stellenbosch hosts the finish line for the first time in 2018 and the awards ceremony takes place in Cape Town on 30 September 2018.

Most of the teams are from universities, and the event gives students the chance to apply their engineering education in a challenging environment.

Sasol has sponsored the solar challenge since 2012 as part of its commitment to furthering science, technology, engineering and maths education and inspiring learners to pursue technical careers.

This year, Sasol will also sponsor two teams who have never competed before.

The Sasol Solar Challenge is looking for volunteers along its route. Please mail the event office on admin@solarchallenge.org.za

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