Stella – the first solar-powered family car
Student team at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) presented the world’s first solar-powered family car. This is the first ‘energy-positive car’ with room for four people, a trunk, intuitive steering, and a range of 600 kilometers (372 miles). Named ‘Stella’ after the Latin word for “star”, the car is user friendly and comfortable, and its solar panels generate nearly half of the required energy.
Stella’s surface is covered with high-yield silicon solar panels which considerably improve the range of the car, thus allowing traveling large distances every day. The solar cells generate more electricity on average than the car uses and that means the surplus electricity can be returned to the power grid, thereby making the car ‘energy-positive’.
The research team used high-quality materials and smart construction techniques, making the car super lightweight without losing any of its reliability. By combining aerodynamic design with lightweight materials like carbon and aluminum, they designed a very fuel-efficient car, which also has features such as a LED strip and a touch screen display.
With a minimal front surface and optimal aerodynamics, the car has much less air resistance compared to the average family car. Lower air resistance means that its energy consumption is substantially reduced. Stella will be able to cope with everyday situations and it provides enough room for four people that can travel comfortably and, according to its developers, getting in and out of the car is easy.
According to its developers, the network in the car will be modular and available for open development. That means that all the components of the system are going to be exchangeable and are going to be recognized by the car.
In comparison with present-day family cars communication between the car and the driver will be improved to be more logical and intuitive. The system will inform the driver about all the decisions made by car, without overwhelming the driver with underlying complexity. The car will also factor in all available information, such as weather, road and traffic conditions to determine its optimal cruising speed. In addition, it has a smart steering wheel that expands or contracts depending on how fast the car is going.
The Solar Team Eindhoven of TU/e will now move into final testing stage of the vehicle before entering the 2013 World Solar Challenge in Australia this October. The team is taking part in the Cruiser class in which the emphasis lies on practical and user-friendly solar cars rather than on speed or endurance of solar vehicles.