The 2010 South African Solar Challenge is underway and has secured a sponsorship deal with car rental firm Avis which will be providing 21 support vehicles. The race kicked off in Pretoria and will last for 10 days. The competitors, all driving solar powered vehicles, will have to complete a 4,000 mile route finishing back in Pretoria on 2 October.

This year’s race features teams from countries including South Africa, Iran, Japan and Germany. The event is organised by the Innovation Hub and the Advanced Energy Foundation and its main aim is the promotion of technology and science across South Africa as well as demonstrating how new cleaner technologies can be used in the automotive industry.

Avis chief executive, Wayne Duvenage, said the company was proud to be involved in the second ever Solar Challenge. He added that the event fitted in with the Avis ethos and that six of the vehicles providing support to the teams would be environmentally friendly Toyota Prius hybrids.

The race has also secured the backing of the National Energy Efficiency Agency, Motorsport South Africa, the International Solarcar Federation, the Department of Science and Technology and the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile.

Having set out from Pretoria, the competitors will race to Cape Town stopping off in Bloemfontain and Beaufort West. They will then head for Grahamstown and the mountains of Kokstad before crossing to Durban. Before reaching the finishing line in Pretoria the solar powered vehicles will race through Mpumalanga. Favourites to win this year are a team from Japan’s Tokai University.