Dr Mohammad Bin Sulayem, FIA Vice President, Abdul Munim Saif Al Kindi, CEO of ADCO, Dr Ahmad Belhoul, CEO, Masdar along with drivers and members of solar team at a ceremony to unveil the car at Petroleum Institute in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Following 18 months of commitment and hard work, more than 30 engineering students and young drivers unveiled a $3 million (Dh11.01 million) solar-powered car at the Petroleum Institute (PI) on Wednesday that will carry the UAE flag and battle head-to-head for the first time against 20 elite international teams in the capital.

The super sleek, high-tech vehicle will represent the UAE in the inaugural Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge (ADSC), which will take place starting January 15-19 in a multi-day, timed road competition across 1,200km in Abu Dhabi.

The four-day competition aims to enhance research and development in sustainable transportation and promote energy efficiency.

Dr Fahad Al Maskari, PI solar car project director and team leader, said: “Today is an important milestone. The students in the team have worked to the best of their abilities and pushed themselves to the limit in utilising their knowledge and experience and applying it to the project in hand. I am proud to be a part of all they have achieved so far, and I would like to thank everyone for their support.”

The ADSC will be part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, an Abu Dhabi government initiative to address the interconnected challenges affecting energy, water and sustainable development and will end at the opening ceremony of the World Future Energy Summit.

Two young drivers Omar Asad and Saleh Al Ameri will drive the solar-powered car in turns during the four-day challenge.

Al Ameri, 24-year-old PI student, told Gulf News the temperature would be the most challenging aspect while driving the vehicle. “High temperature is the most difficult part of the ADSC. The temperature inside the car compared to the existing one is very high. The car is made of carbon fibre and the black colour absorbs more heat and sunlight. Motor noise and vibration are also other challenges while driving a solar-powered car. Despite these challenges, we expect to win. We have tested the car several times and I drove it about four times. We didn’t yet achieve the target of 1,200km; however, we are very close to it,” Al Ameri said.

Talking about safety precautions taken while designing the vehicle, Al Ameri said: “Safety glasses, suit, mask and helmet are mandatory when driving the car. Seat belts should be fastened before starting the competition. Complying with safety regulations is an integral part of ADSC.”

Sanctioned by the International Solarcar Federation (ISF) and jointly organised by Innovators Education Foundation and Professional Sports Group, the challenge will attract over 20 of the top university solar car teams from Australia, Europe, America and Asia, including Michigan State, Nuon and Tokai.

Al Taqa Al Hanaee, 23-year-old Emirati student and PI solar car team leader said: “ We are honoured to carry the UAE flag and compete against talented, international teams from around the world here in Abu Dhabi. While this is the first time we have entered the solar challenge, we have built a fast, cutting-edge car that has a strong chance to win.”

“Our team has been training for months. We are fine tuning the motor, making last-minute adjustments and, of course, practicing our driving skills. We have worked extremely hard and are excited to compete and make the UAE proud,” he added.

The PI team is backed by the UAE’s leading motorsports heroes. Shaikh Khalid Bin Faisal Al Qasimi, Mohammad Bin Sulayem, and Khalid Al Qubaisi will be ambassadors and advisers to the team throughout the competition- from qualification and time trails to the chequered flag.

“The UAE should rally around its young drivers and this historic event. I know first-hand how much the UAE loves its motor sports, and this event will I am sure, spark our nation’s interest and support,” Bin Sulayem said.