The Agoria Solar Team came second in the Sasol Solar Challenge in South Africa last weekend. It is the first time that KU Leuven students, including Lenniker Ruben Van Acker, take part in this competition. After a lot of accidents and a technical fault in their battery, they still managed to finish in second place.
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The KU Leuven student team started their tour through South Africa on September 9. On the first day, disaster struck, due to an unexpected bump in the road, the solar car began to skid and scraped its side against the ground. The team was able to repair the damage, but lost many precious kilometers as a result. On the final evening, the BluePoint Atlas’ solar array was damaged by the actions of an inexperienced member of a competing team. The damage could not be repaired and the team had to start the final stage with a solar panel that does not work optimally. Both the Belgians and the Dutch were also handed a 10-minute penalty. In recent days, they pushed each other, in the fierce battle, to the limits and today they are experiencing the consequences of this.
“We are here at the finish line of the Sasol Solar Challenge. We raced for 8 days. We came second. We learned a lot. A lot of new things have happened that we were prepared for or not. A good example is a bull, who ran on the course. We learned a lot. Within two years we hope to be here again and go for first place,” says Casper Martens (23, Zutendaal), Electrical Engineer at Agoria Solar Team.
Second place after titanic battle
Despite all the previous setbacks, the team was able to start the last game today. With only 10 kilometers behind the front runners, it promised to be a blood-curdling final stage. Unfortunately, the students were not spared the problems today either. A sudden technical fault with their battery meant that the students could only drive on at a reduced speed. This choice was made for security reasons. One of the battery cells showed a lower voltage than the rest of the cells. From the trailer to the solar car, all battery parameters were constantly monitored to guarantee safety at all times. The defective cell could be removed by a mandatory stop. After this procedure, the students could continue driving with a battery with reduced capacity.
“The problem is with the battery, a critical component of the car. We have decided to intervene before we reach the limit. Even if it affects the race because we are standing still here. We thought it was more important to put safety before the competition itself ,” says Pieter April (21, Meise), team leader at Agoria Solar Team.
The Belgians could make it very difficult for the Dutch. After they were able to make up a gap of more than 100 kilometers, they were at the top of the classification for a while. However, due to the various setbacks, they were unable to maintain the leading position. It was a cat-and-mouse match where both teams were evenly matched. Today, the Belgian team started the last stage with a gap of only 10 kilometers. She started this catch-up race in good spirits this morning. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Despite all the setbacks, they managed to finish the race and finish second. The team members are proud of the performance they were able to give in their first match in South Africa. It was a challenging and long race that took its toll, but we learned a lot. With the experience they gained during this challenge, the students set about building a new solar car. With this, they will participate in the world championship in Australia next year.
“Unfortunately, the repair we are doing at the moment has an impact on the race. We are standing still here, which makes it difficult to finish first. So we have decided to finish the race quietly so that we do not finish first , comes the line. Nevertheless, it is a very strong performance that the team has delivered here. We have covered almost 4000 kilometers in 8 days. It is only possible with a strong team and a strong solar car,” says Pieter April (21, Meise), Team Leader at Agoria Solar Team.
“We are here at the finish line in Cape Town. We finished second. I am really happy with our performance. We have fought hard for every kilometer over the last 8 days”, concludes Ronan Beauthier (23, Vilvoorde), pilot at Agoria Solar Team, off.