The Toyota-backed team from Tokai University won the Sasol Solar Challenge South Africa 2012 on Sept 28 with its solar car mounted with Panasonic HIT solar cells and high-capacity lithium-ion batteries.
The Japanese university team extended its dominance in the world’s longest-distance solar car race as they have won all three races held since the inception of the biennial event in 2008 – their previous victory was Australia’s World Solar Challenge in 2011.
A total of 14 teams from around the world set off from the CSIR in Pretoria on September 18 to challenge the roughly 4,600 km loop course circling around the country, a grueling course with a maximum elevation difference of about 2,000 m.
The race took teams from South Africa’s administrative capital to Vryburg and then onto the soon-to-be solar capital of South Africa in Upington. It sped through the scenic town of Springbok and made a glorious entry and departure from Cape Town’s Canal Walk. Oudtshoorn and East London witnessed a frenzy of local onlookers dazzled by the futuristic cars as the race wound down through Loch Logan, Dundee, and Secunda with the final destination being back at the CSIR Campus in Pretoria. The Tokai University team returned to Pretoria on September 28, crossing the finish line first at 11h03 after driving a total distance of 4,632 km in 71 hours and 13 minutes.
Professor Hideki Kimura of Tokai University, advisor to the solar car team, was naturally thrilled with the win: “The course was very challenging, long with lots of ups and downs. But the students’ teamwork, Panasonic’s solar cell and battery technology, coupled with Toyota’s support made a formidable combination and brought us our third win in a row. We were very grateful to Toyota for the fleet of hybrids (Yaris, Auris and Prius) that were made available to us – not only did these cars fit the spirit of the race, their amazing fuel economy meant that we could follow the solar car every step of the way without having to stop and fill up.”