Belgian Solar Team participates in world's most extreme Solar Challenge

Belgian Solar Team takes part in world's most extreme Solar Challenge.

Wednesday, 10 January - The Innoptus Solar Team students, who became world champions in October 2023, are preparing for the SASOL Solar Challenge in South Africa. This race, considered the most extreme in the world, will start in eight months. The KU Leuven engineering students will cover more than 4,000 kilometres over eight days from Johannesburg to Cape Town. For this, they will further optimise their champion car, the Infinite. 

Extreme challenge

The SASOL Solar Challenge is known as the most extreme in the world. On the one hand, this is due to significant altitude differences, exceptional weather conditions and crowded cities. On the other hand, due to its duration of eight days, the race is a huge attrition battle of more than 4,000 kilometres between Johannesburg and Cape Town.

So over the next eight months, the team will work extremely hard to be razor-sharp at the start in Johannesburg.

"As a team, we started looking for a new challenge after our victory at the 2023 World Championships in Australia. We found this one in the SASOL Solar Challenge, where we have achieved second place in the past. Due to its extreme conditions, the team is extremely driven to optimise the Infinite and go for the win here too." 

Dries De Saegher (23, Gent) Team Manager at the Innoptus Solar Team 

Optimising champion car

In October 2023, the students already proved that their champion car, the Infinite, is the best solar car in the world. Indeed, they became world champions in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in Australia. Yet this will not be enough to secure victory in South Africa. The bigger gradients and more frequent accelerating and braking will put much harder strain on the engine and battery. The mechanical systems will also be addressed to minimise energy losses during braking, mandatory stops and driver changes.

The team will have to make the necessary adjustments to adapt the solar car to this challenging route.

Strategische wedstrijd

The SASOL Solar Challenge is more than a race from point A to point B. The aim of the race is to cover as many kilometres as possible in the given time. They do this by driving extra loops on top of the mandatory distance. This allows the teams to increase the distance covered that day. The team with the most driven distance wins the challenge. All this, combined with the conditions in South Africa, makes the race more strategically challenging than the world championship in Australia. The students are currently trying to optimise their strategy for the unfamiliar course.

"In South Africa, it is not the distance but the time that is fixed and it is up to us to decide how much distance we cover each day. We determine this distance by choosing the number of loops we will ride that day on top of the distance between point A and point B. Choosing the amount of loops is hugely important to evenly distribute the energy in our battery throughout the race. It is imperative that we adapt our strategic programme to these loops and the extreme conditions in South Africa."

Simon De Baere (23, Leuven), Strategic Engineer at the Innoptus Solar Team

Strong competition

In 2022, the team took part in the SASOL Solar Challenge for the first time. Although the students were strong at the start, they had to give way to the strong team from Delft, which has years of experience in this race. This edition, the Belgians will do everything they can to exchange this second place for a victory. It is expected that the top teams of the world championship will participate again this year.

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