Iran’s solar car challenge depends on US plane ticket
It is not easy for an Iranian to visit America. With no US embassy in Tehran since 1979, obtaining a visa usually requires two costly trips to Dubai or Turkey
A group of Iranian students, however, have a far bigger problem they want to send a car to the United States. Only then will they get on a plane.
The Havin-2 is no ordinary vehicle. Solar powered, its 4.5 metre (15 feet) carbon fibre chassis resembles a giant door. The four wheels that lurk beneath its sprawling white body are the only clue it is a car at all.
As entrants to the American Solar Challenge, a 2,735 kilometre road trip in July across seven US states from Austin, Texas to Minneapolis, Minnesota, a lot is at stake for the young Iranians.
But the sad reality is that the Havin-2 may never reach the start line.
“We are really worried about it,” says Mohammad Saadatmand, the mechanical leader of the team from Qazvin Azad Islamic University, west of Tehran.
“To think that we might not make it is almost too terrible to contemplate.” The road block they face is more daunting than consular paperwork.
Standing in their path are the sanctions imposed on Iran by the United States and other world powers as punishment for a nuclear program that many believe masks an intention to develop an atomic bomb.
The restrictions make transporting the Havin-2 by air cargo a logistical nightmare.
The Iranian team is confident it can hold its own against the mostly American field, which includes the illustrious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The question is whether they will get the chance.
“This car has made us crazy,” says Alireza Malmali, the team’s electronics specialist who has now switched his attention to trying to find an air carrier.
Giving a tour at the team’s spartan workshop, where the Havin-2 lurks under a tarpaulin, the prospect of being barred is writ large across his face.
“I wish governments across the world would accept we are researchers, not terrorists,” he says.