They conquered the most extreme solar challenge in the world!

In an impressive show of leadership, strategy and teamwork, the Punch Powertrain team from Belgian displayed important abilities that helped them take out first place in the Carrera Solar Atacama 2018.

Completing a route of 2566 kilometres from Santiago to Arica in just 6 days with their vehicle Punch 2, the students from University KU Leuven in Belgium were crowned champions of the CGE Challenger Class (single occupant) of the 5th Carrera Solar Atacama 2018, the most extreme solar car challenge in the world.

In addition to taking home the CGE Challenger Cup, the Punch Powertrain team were also presented the ISF Award (International Solarcar Federation) for creating awareness of innovation and sustainable transport, and for embodying the spirit of the event.

The European representatives arrived to Chile with great expectations, and really demonstrated why they are the most extreme team in the world, surpassing all estimations of their arrival time in Arica, arriving at the finish line after just 36 hours of driving time, and avoiding any penalties during the race.

So what strategy did they use to take on the high levels of solar irradiation, altitude, and geographic diversity, and stand tall on the podium at the finish line?

Punch en La Moneda

Day 1

Due to a setback at Scrutineering at Las Vizcachas racetrack, the Punch 2 vehicle was the last to cross the start line in Santiago centre in front of La Moneda palace on 20 October. The solar car faced heavy traffic driving out of the capital towards Mantos de Hornillos, driving 328 kilometres over one of the longest legs of the race. For the first time, the vehicle passed through a tunnel, and just like any other vehicle, paid highway tolls. At the end of the day, the team had made up for lost time and were sitting in first place in their vehicle class.

Day 2

At 8.25am, the team left Mantos de Hornillos to arrive at the next control stop in La Serena, being the first to arrive there and continue towards Vallenar. The Belgians had to travel many kilometres, and for the first time, reached 1000 metres of altitude in Punch 2. The road took them along the coast, as well as through tight mountainous curves.

Day 3

Punch en la región de Antofagasta

As a result of the weather in the morning close to Copiapó, the vehicle’s speed was below average. At noon, the sky cleared and Punch 2 accelerated again. At this point, the team had travelled 1315 kilometres, almost half of the 2600 kilometres of Carrera Solar Atacama, passing through Chañaral, Taltal, and finishing the day 50 kilometres from Antofagasta. On this day, the Belgians could testify to the fact that Chile has the highest levels of solar radiation in the world, after the solar panel was able to generate a maximum power of 1200 watts.

Day 4

The team passed through Antofagasta, Sierra Gorda, Calama and San Pedro de Atacama. In less than 6 hours, having started from the coast, the team arrived at 3430 metres above sea level, a huge achievement!

Strategically, they had to ensure they had enough energy to climb the hills, and fortunately, the weather was perfect. The solar panel collected a lot of energy, and the wind consumed very little. Punch 2 achieved an average speed of 95 km/h climbing the most difficult leg of the race!

Day 5

The day started at 8:00 in the morning at some 3000 metres above sea level in the Atacama Desert. The first stage was returning to Calama in order to take the road towards Tocopilla. Afterwards, the team drove 230 kilometres along the coast under a thick layer of cloud towards Iquique.  

During this leg, the police helped at the customs control point requesting documents of the team vehicles, causing the team to stop for some minutes.

Day 6

At 12.24pm, the Punch Powertrain team crossed the Carrera Solar Atacama finish line in Arica, surprising everyone with their speed, strategy and teamwork, and completing the entire route of most extreme solar challenge in the world without penalties. The excitement was obvious in the team member’s faces, as they celebrated with champagne and by jumping into the fountain at Plaza Vicuña Mackenna.

Punch celebra en Arica

Their achievement was not a result of luck. In addition to showing their impressive organisation, strategy and coordination skills, the Belgian team had another tool up their sleeve. At first glance, it was a post on the roof of one of the escort vehicles, but in fact, it was a meteorological station capable of monitoring small changes in wind and solar energy, and in this way, maximising their vehicle efficiency.

At the end of the journey, more than 5000 spectators were witnesses to what is possible in terms of creating vehicles with new technology, utilising natural resources and taking advantage of solar energy. In addition, more than 350 people attended the talks of international experts, where the public were able to further understand the benefits of electromobility and promoting the use of renewable energies.

Carrera Solar Atacama is a project supported by CORFO, and sponsored by CGE, SQM, EDF, Transelec, Ayllú Solar, Globalsat, Grupo Disal, Meanstream, Phineal, Safecar, Suatrans, Time2L, Albemarle, Europcar, Transportes Bello and LitoralPress.