The bi-annual Sasol Solar Challenge came to an end over the weekend, with Dutch team Nuon crossing the finish line first. Japanese team Tokai came second.
The challenge sees teams from across the world compete in a race from Pretoria to Cape Town powered only on solar energy – except for the little VW Beetle that runs on electricity.
Collectively, all the teams drove more than 27 000 kilometres, but Nuon set a new distance record with 4 716 km, breaking the four-year old record of 4 630 kilometres and beating Tokai by 172 kilometres.
We’re really excited – we already started celebrating in traffic as we came into Cape Town when we suddenly realised that we’d won. The team that is here has been working on the car for years, so they were very emotional,” said Sarah Bennink Bolt from the Nuon team.
It is the second time that Nuon won the Sasol Solar Challenge, but it had a score to settle with the Japanese.
“Tokai was really good last year in Australia at the World Solar Challenge, and while a lot of people thought we were a shoe-in for the Sasol Solar Challenge in South Africa, it wasn’t obvious to us. We had to work incredibly hard to beat them. They came out strong this year,” said Bolt.
South Africa’s North-West University was the first local team to cross the line and came in fourth position overall. High school team Maragon Olympus came in seventh, and managed to beat Solar Challenge alumni University of Johannesburg.
“Beating UJ is an enormous achievement for us as a school. This would not have been possible without the efforts of the whole team. With hard work and a lot of persistence we pulled it off. What the future holds for us as a school participating again is under discussion, but the Solar Eagle will likely retire to a museum after the 2016 Sasol Solar Challenge,” said team manager Marinda Jordaan.