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African sun shines on world's toughest renewable power race

Advanced alternative energy vehicles arriving in SA for solar challangeAlternative Energy Vehicles

One of the world’s toughest alternative energy vehicle races kicked off in South Africa yesterday.

Starting in Pretoria on 23 September, the South African Solar Challenge 2010 is an epic 10-day race between solar-powered cars travelling more than 4,000km across the length and breadth of the country. The event finishes in Pretoria on 2 October.

The 2010 event has attracted competitive racing teams from Germany, Japan, Iran and South Africa, including the German School in Johannesburg and the University of Johannesburg. By 2012 the SA Solar Challenge is expected to become a global event attracting all the world’s top solar teams. This year Avis will be sponsoring all support vehicles for each team participating.

Avis chief executive, Wayne Duvenage, says Avis is proud to be associated with the Solar Challenge. “World sustainability issues are at the heart of our ‘Avis Cares’ programme and we understand that larger and significant efforts need to be made to conserve the planet for future generations.”

The event is organized by the Advanced Energy Foundation and the Innovation Hub. Teams have built their own cars, designed their own engineering systems and will race their vehicles through the most demanding terrain that solar cars have ever experienced. The combination of semi-desert, mountain, cities, coastal forest and changing altitudes make it one of the most scenic and challenging solar-powered races in the world.

The SA Solar Challenge has international backing from the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) as well as the Department of Science and Technology, International Solarcar Federation (ISF), Motorsport South Africa and the National Energy Efficiency Agency.

After the start of the SA Solar Challenge at the Innovation Hub in Pretoria on 23 September, the race heads towards Cape Town on the N1, with overnight stops in Bloemfontein and Beaufort West. The competitors then turn east and take the world-famous Garden Route via George and up through university city Grahamstown and mountainous Kokstad to Durban and Richard’s Bay. The final few days sees the cars pass through Mpumalanga before racing for the finish line in Pretoria on 2 October.

The long stretches of open road through the Karoo, with its abundant sunshine, are a perfect proving ground for solar cars. Day Six from Grahamstown via Mthatha to Kokstad is expected to be the toughest, as weary teams coax their solar vehicles from sea level to 1,600m in just 400km – an incredible feat of solar-powered automotive engineering.

“The SA Solar Challenge is the World Cup of renewable energy racing,” said race director Winstone Jordaan. “South Africa has the chance to demonstrate not just its beauty and geographic diversity, but also our world-class science base and engineering skills, and the potential of our renewable energy industry.”

The primary aim of the SA Solar Challenge is to promote science and technology in southern Africa and demonstrate the potential of renewable energy sources for motoring and other industries.

To qualify each team must put their vehicle through gruelling qualifying and technical inspections. Teams that fail to meet the requirements are not allowed to participate. During the race, each team is escorted by their support team and the vehicles will be tracked and monitored in real-time.

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