FUTURISTIC-LOOKING solar-powered cars sped into the Summerstrand Sasol garage yesterday, attracting a large crowd during a pit stop in the latest leg of the Sasol Solar Challenge 2012.
South African and international teams are taking part in the epic two-week endurance challenge. Yesterday was day seven of the race.
To compete teams had to design and build their own cars, ensuring they could make the 5400km trek across South Africa – braving roadworks and potholes along the way.
Excitement was palpable as residents gathered around the solar cars, giving particular support to students from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, the sole team from the Bay to take part in the challenge.
The first car to arrive was that of last year's Solar Challenge world champions, Tokai University. They were followed by another Japanese team and then NMMU. Tokai University professor Hideki Kimura said their car took almost a year to build. The body was of carbon fibre and weighed 135kg.
NMMU mechanical engineering BTech student Jason Humm said it was a special and meaningful experience to drive the solar car. "Having to drive something that you personally designed makes you feel privileged."
He said the NMMU team of 13 students and two lecturers took a year to design the car and started building it at the beginning of the year.
The car was made of carbon fibre and the technology used included solar panels and battery packs. Humm said it could travel at 60km/h.
Race director Winstone Jordaan said the challenge, which started in Pretoria, was geared at attracting people to science and technology. He said the cost of solar cars ranged from R500000 to R2-million, and this could be seen as an investment in education, science and technology.