South African teams put on a strong showing at the Sasol Solar Challenge

The University of KwaZulu Natal took home third place in a race that took teams 11 days

October 2, 2012

The University of KwaZulu Natal took home third place in a race that took teams 11 days, covering a distance of 5400km and totaling 109 hours on the road in solar powered vehicles to complete the 2012 Sasol Solar Challenge. Thirteen teams met at the gates of the CSIR Campus in Pretoria on Tuesday, 18 September 2012 to depart on the epic journey.

Records fell as North West University covered the furthest distance in the Olympia Class with 1087.2km on the clock, while the University of KwaZulu Natal gave the best showing from a South African team in the converted challenge class, covering 1930.9km.

World Champions, Tokai University were named winners of the Sasol Solar Challenge with their Japanese counterparts, Shinozuka coming in a close second while the University of KwaZulu Natal gave a strong showing in third place.

The race took teams from Pretoria to Vryburg, onto the soon to be solar capital of South Africa in Upington. It sped through the scenic town of Springbok and made a glorious entry and departure from Cape Town’s, Canal Walk. Oudtshoorn and East London witnessed a frenzy of local onlookers dazzled by the futuristic cars as the race wound down through Loch Logan, Dundee, and Secunda with the final destination being back at the CSIR Campus in Pretoria.

What was encouraging about the challenge this year was the number of South African teams that entered in the different classes. This saw nine South African teams being entered into the race many of whom that became strong competitors as the challenge progressed.

The team from the North West University and the University of Johannesburg Hybrid teams were the stars in their categories as both teams won in their respective classes while the team from the University of KwaZulu Natal was second in their class behind the more experienced championship winning team from Tokai.

The fact that the majority of the South African teams comprised of undergraduate students is evidence that for the next race in 2014, more of the local teams will be able to mount a challenge against the Japanese sides. For many that were part of the event this year, the Sasol Solar Challenge was a learning experience and many can now take the experience and expertise back to their various institutions across South Africa and the world.

“The event this year was an allround success. In the beginning, many of our local teams were a little overwhelmed by the whole occasion but we were happy that as the challenge progressed they came into their stride,” said race organiser Winstone Jordaan.

“Our international competitors found that this was a very challenging race and one that was very unique to what they were used to on other races. The numerous stop and go’s on the challenging roads and conditions ensured that the race remained entertaining for the full 11 days,” he said.

The final results are a clear indication that with more exposure to such competitions and events, South African teams will prove to very competitive in the years to come.

“The Solar Challenge has been a very exciting display of the power of harnessing the power of the sun. Solar technology, such as concentrated solar power, has significant potential in helping to diversify South Africa’s energy mix. We have also recently made an investment in Oxis Energy, developer of next generation battery technology, which marks another step in our expanding new energy technology portfolio,” said Henri Loubser, Managing Director of Sasol New Energy.

Sasol Group Executive, Maurice Radebe said, “I believe that this year’s Sasol Solar Challenge stimulated young minds in the marvel of solar technology and the engineering that goes into it. It’s an exciting platform to draw talent into the fields of science, engineering and technology.”