Sun-powered vehicles defy a rainy day race
Residents of Sedgefield were in for a solar-powered kick last week when the Slow Town served as starting point in a leg of the 2018 Sasol Solar Challenge.
On Friday 28 September, nine solar cars from all around the world, including South Africa, set out once again to chase the African sun on SA’s best roads.
The challenge started in Pretoria on Saturday 22 September, and top teams had completed more than 3 500km by the time they reached Sedgefield. Teams came from SA, Switzerland, Japan, Hong Kong and The Netherlands.
After a stormy start in Sedgefield, competitors headed towards Swellendam, with big storms and strong winds, which cleared up by Mossel Bay, but it made for a tough first stage on the day. The challenge for fourth place would take place between SA’s Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) and North-West University. The frontrunners at that stage were the teams from the Netherlands and Japan.
Together, the nine teams competing this year drove 16 249.1km, stopping in 18 towns on solar energy on an epic road trip between Pretoria and Stellenbosch. Along the way, kids donned virtual reality headsets for an in-car experience, cars broke down, solar panels blew off, and teams pushed the cars they'd built with their own hands to the extreme.
With major global technology sponsors, these teams are at the cutting edge of technology development. Dutch team Nuon tested semi-autonomous systems, Japanese team Tokai continues to push battery techdevelopment in their multi-million dollar Challenger, and SA team NWU built a unique solar panel that could rotate to follow the sun while driving.
Dutch team Nuon won the 2018 Sasol Solar Challenge in Stellenbosch, clocking 4 030.4km. Their close rivals from Japan, team Tokai, completed 3 941.4km. The top SA team TUT travelled a full 2 397km on SA roads, narrowly beating NWU's 2 276.3km.
Dutch team Nuon celebrates their victory.