South Africa’s second solar challenge will take place from September 26 to October 6.
This event will follow on from the inaugural race held in 2008, which was won by a team of Japanese engineering students from the Tokai university, near Tokyo. The team driver was Japanese racing legend Kenjiro Shinozuka – the 1997 winner of the Paris-Dakar rally.
Race organiser, the Advanced Energy Foundation (AEF), will again be at the helm of the 4 200 km-long event.
AEF chairperson Winstone Jordaan says the race will start in Pretoria, using the N1 freeway to reach Cape Town, switching to the N2 to travel to Durban, then moving on to more interesting back roads to again reach the Jacaranda city.
The race will consist of three classes, with the Olympia division reserved for the top-end teams, the Adventure division for older solar cars, and finally the technology demonstration division, where any company or person may use the event to showcase interesting automotive-related technology.
“These do not have to be solar-powered vehicles,” explains Jordaan. “It could be an existing vehicle manufacturer which wants to demonstrate a vehicle with extremely good fuel efficiency, for example.”
Jordaan says this year’s entries will include teams from the Witwatersrand University, the German School, in Johannesburg, as well as the University of Johannesburg, with several other teams lined up to also participate, including one from engineering university the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, three teams from Europe, one from Canada, as well as one each from Australia and New Zealand.
The event is recognised by the FIA (or Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile) and Motorsport South Africa. The FIA is the governing body for auto racing events. Its most prominent role is in the licencing and arbitration of Formula One motor racing.
Jordaan says entry for the solar challenge closes at the end of July.
A solar car relies on solar panels that convert sunlight into electricity. This electricity is stored in batteries, which are then used to power electric motors that turn the car's wheels. As such, solar cars are not very powerful.
The winning car in 2008 was a 1,6 horsepower vehicle – compared to an average car which kicks out 120 horsepower.
The lighter the car, the faster it travels – which is evident when considering the R550 000 carbon-fibre Japanese car weighed 150 kg in total.