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Dutch team Nuon wins 2018 Sasol Solar Challenge with 4,030.4 km clocked between Pretoria and Stellenbosch

 Dutch team Nuon wins 2018 Sasol Solar Challenge with 4,030.4 km clocked between Pretoria and Stellenbosch

The Dutch Nuon Solar team has won the 2018 Sasol Solar Challenge, clocking a distance of 4,030.4 kilometres on public roads from Pretoria to Stellenbosch. Arriving in Stellenbosch on Saturday after a tough final loop, they narrowly beat the Tokai University Solar Car team, who completed 3,941.4 kilometres.

Together, the nine teams competing this year drove 16,249.1 kilometres, stopping in 18 towns. Kids en route were also treated to virtual reality tours of the inside of a solar car as it travels through the country, as well as various other science and engineering-based games to stimulate interest.

The Sasol Solar Challenge is held every second year as a testament to the power of science, engineering, maths and technology. On their journey through South Africa, the solar cars become travelling laboratories, demonstrating to the schools that join them at each stop exactly what practically applying those subjects can achieve.

“This was a very tough round of the Sasol Solar Challenge because we significantly reduced the size solar array teams were allowed to use,” said founder and director of the event, Winstone Jordaan. Despite the 33% reduction in space, top teams still managed 80% of the performance they achieved in previous years. "This means that there has been an incredible improvement in efficiency."

The competition pushes universities, and the major technology companies that sponsor them, to develop new processes and equipment to make the efficiency needed for an eight-day road trip possible.

"Regulation changes like these push teams to innovate, and we've seen incredible ingenuity from teams over the years," said Chris Selwood MA, President of the International Solar Car Federation.

Coming in third with a respectable 2,642.1 km were the Solar Energy Racers from Switzerland. Their car SER-3’s cockpit cover sustained damage early on in the eight-day challenge, and the team had to repair it overnight. The group of students rallied, and still managed a comfortable 300 kilometre lead on the next car. Back on the road with several hours, they credited SA’s TUT team for inspiring them to push on.

In the local battle, Tshwane University of Technology's Sun Chaser 3 finished an impressive 2,397 kilometres, 120.7 kilometres ahead of the North-West University car, Phoenix.  TUT's solar team also experienced a tough first day, with their solar panel blowing off on the road to Kroonstad and having to be significantly rebuilt.  NWU’s Phoenix carried the university’s new purple colours, and had an entirely unique rotating solar panel, allowing them to follow the sun as they drove through the country.

High school team Sonke covered an admirable 656.9 kilometres with their first ever solar car, something which the two schools hope to repeat in coming years, given sponsorship. The kids, aged 14 to 18, built all elements of the vehicle under guidance of team manager and teacher Rob Lodge, who runs the project to demonstrate the practical side of STEM subjects, an inspire young people en route. St Augustine’s LEAP school student, Shanelle Makobe said participating in the educational activities has given her a great deal of perspective.

“This challenge has shown me that the knowledge I have could benefit others. We so easily fall into the trap of thinking we have nothing to contribute, but working on the education drive has made me appreciate that others can learn from me too. The take-home is that one can’t rely on textbooks only – learning is best when you do things, because that’s when you remember them.”

Newcomers from the Central University of Technology and Cape Peninsula University of Technology demonstrated the spirit of never giving up, working tirelessly all eight days to troubleshoot challenges with their cars. The Bloemfontein-based CUT clocked a full 110.3 kilometres. They were also responsible for the virtual reality experience that put kids right in the driver’s seat.

“We really wanted to give them the feel of being in the solar car,” said Nico Nicholson, spokesperson for the CUT team. “And the only way to really do that is with virtual reality headsets. So those students got a very special insight into what we get to experience every day of this epic event.”

After persevering with their car until the very last, CPUT managed just more than 30 kilometres, and both crossed the line to high praise from their fellow competitors for their incredible work ethic and determination. 

From Hong Kong, the sole competitor in the Sustainability class, for which charging is allowed, City University completed 175.5 kilometres. With their hyper-realistic car, Reysol, a crowd-pleasing addition to the event this year, they aim to use this experience to return in 2020 with an all improved vehicle. The group of young students met online, playing racing games against one another, and one team member is even an accomplished drifting driver. The team decided to get together and put their virtual passion into reality.

As title sponsor of the event for the third year, Sasol hosted the teams at an awards event in Cape Town on Sunday 30 October. Sasol also supported two of the local newcomers, CUT and Sonke, and Charlotte Mokoena, executive vice president for human resources and corporate affairs, commended all teams for their hard work:

“You put your minds to work through your hands and the result was a vehicle of inspiration and hope, and that, to us, is a commendable way to contribute to the future of South Africa’s energy, aerodynamics, motoring, engineering and education sectors. We salute your tireless efforts and dedication to this ambitious project."

Teams were also given special awards for their extraordinary spirit:

  • Rookie Award: Solar Energy Racers from Switzerland
  • African Spirit Award: Tshwane University of Technology
  • Technology Innovation Award: Nuon Solar Car Team
  • Communication Award: Joint award for high school team Sonke and the Central University of Technology
  • Professionalism and Safety Award: Think Bike
  • Environmental Award: Tokai University Solar Car Team

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