SUNSHINE TOURER: Local racers are not yet at the level of international solar-car competitors but they have lots of potential. Image: Duncan Alfreds / Fin24
CAPE TOWN, Western Cape - Technology to build and race solar-powered cars in South Africa is increasing in its competitiveness to take on world champions.
That's the word from the results of the Sasol Solar Challenge that ended in Cape Town on Saturday after thousands of kilometers of silent travel through South Africa.
Race director Winstone Jordaan told sister 24.com sit Fin24: "Every team on this race has done really well. OK, two struggled a little bit, but the top teams are now very close to the world champions.
“The Dutch team dominated the race but local universities showed they have the wherewithal to compete in such a high-tech event in which a top-flight vehicle can cost upward of €1.5-million. The universities of Johannesburg, Cape Town and North West showed they have the technological prowess to build and race solar vehicles to compete with the best in the world.
"They really are ready to challenge them and keep them on their toes. Even on Day 1 the world champions knew that one mistake… and there were teams right behind them, ready to take their place.”
The competition was a practical demonstration project intended to illustrate and push the limits of solar power as a future transportation technology.
'STOOD STILL THIS YEAR'
The race finished at the UCT campus on Saturday and, despite being competitors, a number of teams demonstrated camaraderie at the evening finish. Jordaan said that while the number of local teams stayed the same, the quality of the entrants had improved.
"We stood still this year,” he explained. “What happened was that UCT joined us but Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University decided not to build a car this year, so we still ended up with six teams, as previously."
He added that the competition showed that South Africans had the potential to give world leaders a run for their money despite coming late to the party with solar technology.
"We do compare very favourably but there's a very special technique in building solar cars and we've only been doing that for about four years. The Dutch - they've been doing it for about 16 years."