Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, has launched last Saturday the Sasol Solar Challenge at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
The challenge is a rally for solar-powered cars that started in Sasolburg and will end in Cape Town. It has attracted international entrants from The Netherlands, Turkey, Cyprus, six local universities teams, and two local schools.
The Sasol Solar Challenge will end on 04 October. Some of the pit-stops include Kroonstad, Bloemfontein, Colesberg, Graaff-Reinet, Port Elizabeth, Knysna and Swellendam, a route that spans more than 2,000km.
Competitors will cover an average distance of 260km a day, with some of the front-runners covering up to 6,000km fuelled only by sunlight.
Speaking at the start, Minister Pandor said, “Of particular significance to South Africa is the benefit such an event has in generating awareness that science and technology creates for our young people and the prestige it brings to our country.”
“The Sasol Solar Challenge provides practical challenges that enable students to broaden their experience by getting involved in real world projects, international networking, practical learning, logistics and understanding the need for and the value of engineers.”
“The power of innovative platforms like this event validates research into electric vehicles and renewable energy,” said the Minister.
While other solar challenge events are staged in Australia, North America, Japan and India, the South African Solar Challenge is the only solar rally event endorsed by the FIA – the governing body for world motorsport – which stipulates the rules for the three different classes of cars taking part.
The event, besides providing a very entertaining spectacle, brings together more than 1,000 of the world’s leading minds in the field of solar energy.
“The Sasol Solar Challenge has all the makings of an event that will, once again, stop South Africans in their tracks. Challenges around energy are real and relevant, and South Africans are very aware of this,” said Dr Sibusiso Sibisi, CSIR Chief Executive Officer.
“Adding to the fact that South Africans can relate to energy challenges, technology and innovation truly comes to life in this initiative, it is there for all to see and experience.”
“The final ingredient to the winning recipe is the fact that young people from here and around the world – the future innovators – are at the heart of this race.”
“We are proud to be a part of this exciting start of the race at the CSIR, and will keenly follow updates on the race,” Sibisi said.
Fay Hoosain, Sasol Executive in the office of the CEO, explained that supporting the Solar Challenge is one way in which business can address South Africa’s critical skills shortage.
In addition, the event presents an ideal platform for the promotion of STEM subject – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics – amongst our young learners and future leaders.
To drive home the message, the event will include a schools engagement programme including nearly 200 participating schools. The formal programme will run in conjunction with the Sasol Solar Challenge pit-stops.
Learners from schools along the route will receive an education kit which explains how solar-powered vehicles work and materials that enable them to build and race their own model solar car.
Learners will race their cars, competing against other schools in the hopes of being the fastest solar team.