Cyprus Solar Car Challenge revs into gear

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The fifth annual solar car race, the Cyprus Solar Car Challenge organized by the Cyprus Institute, was held on Sunday in Nicosia, Cyprus. Comprising six Cypriot teams from local high schools and technical schools, and of two international solar teams – the Philadelphia University, Jordan, and the NUST-PNEC University, Pakistan – the race was yet again deemed a success in helping raise the profile of solar power in Cyprus.

The race began at 10 am and concluded three hours later, with the cars then parading to Nicosia’s Town Hall for the award ceremony and exhibition to the public.

Yesterday’s race winner was the team from local technical school Avgoros with its Iperion 2 solar car, while the local Club RA finished second but won the award for best solar vehicle design.

Stipulations to enter the race dictate that all energy used to power the vehicles can only be produced through solar radiation. Thus, all vehicles’ horse power comes from solar panels incorporated on to the car’s design, and the competition welcomes different creative solutions and designs to overcome the power source limitations.

"These vehicles represent the green future, when driving a car will be radically different,” said a spokesperson for the Cyprus Institute. Participating teams had the challenge of designing the engineering systems of their vehicles without the input of any fossil fuels, and then had to build the cars and, finally and most thrillingly, race them.

The first Solar Car Challenge took place in June 2010 in Tseri, near the capital Nicosia, while in 2011, 2012 and 2013 the race was moved to the open roads of Pafos and Geroskipou on the island.

The race, says the Cyprus Institute, "has been transformed into an institution that now attracts a great deal of public interest in relation to the usage of renewable energy and The ‘green transportation’ goal."

Nicosia’s mayor Konstantinos Giorkantzis added that Cypriot cities are often overrun by thousands of polluting cars every day. Solar power, the mayor said, is a plentiful and free source of fuel that Cyprus should be looking to capture in order to bring sustainable energy and environmentally friendly solutions to the country.

Critics note, however, that Cypriot cities have done little to encourage a car-free environment. Most Cypriot towns have no adequate pedestrianized areas or dedicated bike lanes, while public transportation is sorely lacking in most areas of the country. Many Cypriots have little option but to take their car with them on every journey they make – no matter how short.

In the renewable energy sphere, though, things are improving, spurred by the small island’s laudable efforts to boost the development of its domestic solar PV sector. The Cypriot Government currently runs an ambitious net metering program aimed at households and businesses rooftops, while last year it launched a solar PV tender that led to surprisingly low auction prices, beating the price of electricity generated by fossil fuels.