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Students Race Solar Cars in South Africa

Solar-powered car
Students in South Africa are building solar-powered cars and racing them in competitions. The University of Johannesburg is training the students to become experts on energy. Their 300-kilogram solar-powered car can travel at a speed of more than 100 kilometers an hour through the countryside. The car uses less electric power than a coffee maker or food processor. The young engineers who built the vehicle drove it in a racing event called the Solar Challenge. The race is for vehicles that use alternative forms of energy.

Kegan Smith is the former manager of the project and a lecturer at the University of Johannesburg. He says the university wants the students to learn about green energy using realistic examples. He is concerned that the continued use of coal, natural gas and oil will destroy the planet. When Kegan Smith was a student in 2010, he was part of a group that built an alternative-energy powered car. Since then, students have built more cars, using both hydrogen and energy form the sun.

Warren Larter is currently directing the university's solar car project. He says solar-powered cars offer an important learning tool to help students develop new technologies. He launched a business that lets students work on real-life projetcs fueled by industry demand. Mr. Larter says the energy market is changing. He says there is a lack of experts locally in non-traditional energy sources and in solar technology. Warren Larter and his students are now working on a car to enter into the next Solar Challenge in August 2014. They want to win the South African race and then compete internationally.