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Good luck to local solar car teams! Students prep for 2018 SA Solar Challenge

2018-07-19 20:00

International and local solar car teams are getting ready to battle it out on South African roads as they prepare for the 2018 Sasol Solar Challenge. 

Teams have been announced at the event’s launch held at The Maslow Time Square in Menlyn Maine, Pretoria on July 19.

Only the best in attendance

Some of the world’s top teams are attending this year’s event including current world champions Nuon from Delft University in The Netherlands and former world champions Tokai University from Japan.

READ: Solar Challenge 2018 dates and route announced

New participants in this year’s event include teams representing City University of Hong Kong from China, Manipal University from India, and the Solar Energy Racers from Switzerland.

The South African teams are the Tshwane University of Technology, North West University, and newcomers Seilatsatsi from the Central University of Technology, and Sonke – a combined team from St Alban’s College and St Augustine’s LEAP School.

South Africa is one of only a few countries where high school teams compete against university students.

Testing the limits of energy 

The 2018 event marks a decade of solar car challenges in South Africa, as it runs for the sixth time. The teams will set off from Pretoria on September 22 and finish in Stellenbosch on September 29. The awards ceremony takes place in Cape Town on September 30.

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The epic 2500km event tests the limits of energy, innovation and technology as teams are challenged by diverse conditions. Baking sun, violent storms, high winds, changing road surfaces and a drop-in altitude of nearly 2000m have to be taken into account by team strategists who work out their vehicles’ power consumption.

Teams travel with entire weather stations of their own and strategists who make make-or-break decisions as conditions change, which is what makes the Sasol Solar Challenge one of the toughest of its kind.

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Taking advantage of loops in the route that teams are allowed to repeat as many times as they’re able to, top teams will clock close to 5 000km during the eight days.

Teams with a point to prove

Dutch team Nuon won the event in 2016 with a record-breaking 4 716km and are returning to defend their title. The regulations for this year’s event have changed, making it tougher for teams to achieve the same distances that they did in 2016.

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Cars are only allowed to have solar arrays of 4m², where previously their arrays could be 6m². This puts significant pressure on the engineers to deliver the power from a smaller array.

To do this, teams reduce the weight of their cars, and improve the energy technology. North West University, the top South African team in 2016, aims to match or better their result. They placed fourth, completing 3 524km.

At the launch, Sasol Solar Challenge director and founder Winstone Jordaan highlighted the importance of the advances made in technology as a direct result of such events.

Inspiring and developing

Jordaan said: "The Sasol Solar Challenge inspires students to develop new technologies by creating a competitive environment. They contribute to core research on solar technology, including the manufacturing of solar cells, their casing, converters, controllers and electronics. The research done by solar teams has become invaluable to the energy industry."

Jordaan added that the Sasol Solar Challenge was a way of bringing these top-notch technologies into communities throughout South Africa, making it more accessible and serving as a practical demonstration of their capabilities.

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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.

Jordaan said: "Everybody involved in the Sasol Solar Challenge is at the top of their game and aiming for constant innovation as they test ideas and technology in tough real-world conditions.

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"This is the commitment and skill and energy which we recognise at Sasol, and which South Africa needs to reach its industrial and energy potential," said Elton Fortuin, Sasol’s Vice President of Group Communication and Brand Management.

Sun International are proud supporters of the 2018 Sasol Solar Challenge and are providing assistance with venues and logistics.

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