Don’t tell students that a solar-powered car is not in the zeitgeist. Indeed, a group of engineering students from the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands just completed a 620-mile drive across Morocco in an electric SUV, and they traveled that distance without stopping once at a charging station. This would be impressive range for any battery-powered vehicle, as even the most efficient ones on sale today are projected to cover just over 500 miles per charge. What made this achievement even more amazing was the fact that the entire trip was fueled by solar panels mounted on the roof of the vehicle. The students named the vehicle Stella Terra.
“Stella Terra’s efficiency was hard to predict,” team manager Wisse Bos said in a statement. “That’s why we weren’t sure if we would make it on solar power.” But during the ride, the vehicle actually used 30% less energy than the team had expected. “We were able to drive the entire trip on the sun’s energy,” Bos said.
The team achieved this milestone for a variety of reasons, all of which are connected to Stella Terra’s bespoke design, the componentry for which was custom created by the students. “We had to design almost everything for Stella Terra ourselves, from the suspension to the inverters for the solar panels,” said Bos.
The vehicle has an incredibly aerodynamic shape, with a sloped, teardrop-like rear that cheats the wind, allowing less resistance. Because it is capable of charging while it drives, via the solar panels on its roof, it can carry a smaller battery pack, which helps reduce weight. It thus weighs just 2645 pounds, or about 40% lighter than the average new car in America. And lighter vehicles tend to move more efficiently.