Two years after Dutch students from the Eindhoven University of Technology produced the prototype of a solar-powered family car called Stella, its progeny, the “energy positive” four-seater Stella Lux, is set to compete in Australia in the 2015 World Solar Challenge, a 3,000km race from Darwin to Adelaide.
The Stella Lux generates electricity via 5.8 square meters of solar cells and has an additional battery capacity of 15kWh. This makes it energy positive, meaning it generates more energy than it consumes during an entire year – energy that can be fed back into the grid, or perhaps even used to help power the energy independent household of the future.
Like its predecessor, Stella – which won the Cruiser Class of the World Solar Challengein 2013 – the car was developed by Solar Team Eindhoven (STE); a group of 21 students from different faculties of the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) who put their studies on hold for for a year and a half to create their vision of the family “car of the future.”
According to the World Solar Challenge website, in the inaugural race of the Cruiser Class, the Stella travelled over 3000km with an external energy input of just 64kWh – “to put this into context, a modern family car returning around 5ltr/100km would use an energy equivalent of around 5000kWh!”
The current version of the car, which will race in Australia this weekend, has a range per charge of over 1,000km in the Dutch Climate – as much as 10 times the range of the average pure electric vehicle on the market today – or 1,100km in the Australian climate, and a top speed of 125km/h.
The team has also aimed to make the Stella Lux user-friendly and ‘sexy’, which, as you can see in the images, is probably in the eye of the beholder. But it certainly looks impressive.
Its current design has a tunnel running through the car’s center, and an extended roof on either side to improve its aerodynamics. It’s construction from lightweight materials including carbon fibre and aluminum keep the vehicle’s weight down to just 375kg.
The car’s efficiency is further improved by the use of a specially designed solar navigator system, that monitors weather and chooses the optimal route accordingly, and minimises breaking and acceleration to conserve energy.
Other notable features include the ability to unlock the car doors when a paired smartphone is nearby, a smartphone app that can prepopulate routes based on a user’s calendar appointments, and a touchscreen with haptic buttons designed to be used without the driver taking their eyes off the road.
The Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, which kicks off this Sunday, will not only test the Stella Lux’s speed and range, but – as a competitor in the Cruiser Class – will have an additional focus on comfort, practicality and “realizability”.
We will keep you posted on how it goes.