28 September 2016 – The fifth racing day brings the Nuon Solar Team through the busy traffic in Port Elizabeth, one of the busiest cities during the SASOL Solar Challenge. The solar car drives on the main road, along with the normal traffic. This means that Nuna is among the busy traffic and even has to stop in traffic jams. After five days of racing in the longest solar challenge in the world, the students from Delft University of Technology have kept the lead. The Dutch team has driven 3237 kilometers so far, almost 200 kilometers more than their biggest competitions, the Japanese Tokai University.
Competing in the SASOL Solar Challenge means that all solar cars have to comply with strict rules. These rules have been established to make sure that all solar cars can drive safely through the daily traffic. Three of the racing days go across big cities in South Africa, meaning busier traffic than Nuna is used to. Strategist Christel Prins says: “We can plan a lot during the race, but the circumstances of the traffic are very unpredictable. You just don’t know what people will do. Today a truck fell over on the main road, causing a huge traffic jam. We don’t get special treatment and have to wait just like any other car. You would like everything to go the way you want it to go you want, but in situations like these, you just have to be flexible and adjust your strategy quickly for everything you encounter.” Until now, the planning has been spot on and thus the Nuon Solar Team keeps the lead.
Steering through traffic
Being a driver in a solar car is very challenging. Nuna is low, weighs little and the view is very limited, so you have to drive carefully. The biggest part of the race is through flat landscapes or mountainous areas, but today the students of Delft University of Technology mingled themselves in the traffic. Now that Nuna drives in Port Elizabeth the busy traffic gets more and more noticeable. Driver Winnifred Noorlander explains: “Whilst driving in Nuna, you always have to trust upon the decisions of the cars driving in front or behind you. They are there to protect the solar car and to obtain a better view. Whenever we come across busy traffic, it gets more and more exciting not being able to have a complete view. Luckily, the drivers are strapped in using DSM Dyneema seatbelts, which are way stronger than the seatbelts in regular cars. You feel very small in traffic, but never unsafe.”