Monday, December 17, 2012

Solar Challenge Winners Craving Sleep

Sleep, sleep and more sleep. That is the only thing the drivers of the first two solar cars in the 2012 SA Solar Challenge could think of after being on the road for 10 days.
Team members of the University of Tokai in Japan celebrate
after winning the 2012 SA Solar Challenge.

Team Tokai, the current world champions from Japan, did it again when they were the first to arrive back after departing from Pretoria on September 18.

Driver Tatsuki Ito, 22, an aerospace engineering student at the University of Tokai, said he was delighted that the team had won again, but at the same time relieved it was over as he was very tired.

“I need some sleep, and then real traditional Japanese cuisine.”

Ito said it took extreme concentration to drive the 135kg solar car which cost approximately $10 million (nearly R82 million) to build. The cost included the design, materials and labour.

“I had very limited vision and trying to keep to the speed limit of 120km/h was difficult at times, especially when driving downhill.

“My main aim was to drive safely and maintain a constant speed.”

Anas Almowarai, who accompanied the team, said they only encountered one problem with the car in the entire trip.

“On Wednesday the motor overheated, but we managed to replace it in 20 minutes and the driver was on his way again.”

He said they also had to make use of a battery while travelling on one of the Cape Town routes, as it was cloudy and raining.

He said the car could run for about three hours on a battery.

The team from the University of Johannesburg was second to arrive.

Driver Warren Hurter said the team ran into several problems along the way, but it was a great learning experience.

“I’m just glad we made it back safely, and the first thing I’m going to do is sleep.

“I’m exhausted from all the early mornings and late nights.”

He said Thursday had been the most difficult day.

“We had three drivers rotating and on Thursday I was driving on the Secunda route.

“It was 45ÂșC inside the car. It was unbearable, but what could I do?”

Hurter said his biggest challenge was to learn how to drive the car effectively.

“It took a lot of concentration to learn how to maintain the same speed when going up and downhill.

“The problems we encountered has given us guidelines as to how to improve our next car.”

He said they would look at some of the design aspects, as the car was too heavy and not designed effectively enough.

Sasol spokesman Ntsika Msuthu said Team Tokai was the overall winner because they had covered the most kilometres.

Results for the rest of the field had not been released at the time of writing. - Pretoria News


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