The ultimate test in technology


Photo: The nine teams in the South African Sasol Solar Challenge drove a collective 16 249km, stopping in 18 towns, starting in Pretoria and finishing in Cape Town. One of the teams taking part in the race was South Africa’s entry from Tshwane University of Technology with its car – SunChaser 3

THE South African Sasol Solar Challenge takes place every two years and sees local and international teams from across the world compete against each other over eight-days. The teams and their solar-powered cars rack up as much distance as they can on loops between Pretoria and Cape Town.

All competing teams have to design and build a solar-powered vehicle that is entered into one of four categories: Challenger Class, Adventure Class, Cruiser Class, and Sustainability Fleet – with each category having different rules and objectives.

The Sasol Solar Challenge is not only the ultimate test of technology but it also promotes science, engineering, math and technology in the form of a mobile classroom that stops at every school who participates, showing the different ways in which these subjects are applied correctly in real life.

To up the ante even further, the teams are run like a professional racing team; they need to work together to raise money to compete, they are expected to create and handle their own marketing and logistics, analyse the route’s weather, be familiar with the road conditions as well as demonstrate their design, manufacturing and strategy skills.

Defending champions of 2016, the Dutch Nuon Solar team once again took the winning title for 2018 with their updated version, the Nuna9S solar vehicle, which completed a distance of just over 4 030km. Japan’s Tokai University Solar Team took second place and the Swiss Solar Energy Racers came in third.

The winning Nuna9S is the most intelligent version of the Nuna ever made. With the help of an innovative radar system, Nuna9S can adjust the driving characteristics to its surroundings so that it can drive as sustainably as possible. For instance, Nuna9S can recognise traffic and inclinations of the road and is able to adapt its velocity as a response. With the use of this technique, Nuna9s can drive more efficiently with the power of the sun.

Together the nine teams drove 16 249km, stopping in 18 towns, starting in Pretoria and finishing in Cape Town.


South Africa’s entry

One of the teams taking part in the race is the Tshwane University of Technology with its car – SunChaser 3.

Building a car that uses solar panels is impressive but the TUT team has decided that it will be building most of the required components itself.

Team leader Johannes de Vries says that the team has a great understanding of the requirements of the race and that experiences and experiences from past races have equipped it with the necessary skills.

“This year is definitely different, because of the more demanding regulations in terms of the solar panel size reduction. There is more focus on reducing the weight of the car since there is less energy available to move the car. It will be smaller in size and more aerodynamic compared to the previous car. We also experienced that the more we work on the design we gain better clarity and understanding of how to improve the design. I am confident that we are well resourced for this year’s race, and believe that we can best challenge the other teams,” de Vries said.