Dezeen Magazine

Solar-powered family car wins race across Australia

News: a vehicle described as "the world's first solar-powered family car" has come first in a photovoltaic-powered race across Australia (+ slideshow).

Stella, a four-seater car developed by Solar Team Eindhoven from the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) in the Netherlands, today claimed victory in the Cruiser class at the World Solar Challenge 2013.

Stella solar-powered family car

The vehicle completed the 3,000 km journey with an average of three people on board at an average of 67 km/h and a top speed of 120 km/h.

The Cruiser class, a new category at the biannual World Solar Challenge, was inaugurated in order to encourage the development of commercially viable solar-powered vehicles. Whereas other categories focus on speed alone, the Cruiser class takes into account practicality for everyday use.

"The team was judged on several aspects like comfort, features, styling and aesthetics but also parallel parking and cargo space," said Solar Team Eindhoven. "Being the only one with a license plate, the road registration of Stella added up in the final score."

“I congratulate Team Eindhoven on their innovation, practical design and foresight, to think outside the square and add the extra seats," said World Solar Challenge director Chris Selwood. "‘Stella’ is a wonderful solar car in a field of exceptional cars and teams. I look forward to 2015 and the prospect of more cruisers as we work toward the world’s most efficient electric car."

Stella, developed over a year and a half by Eindhoven students, features solar panels on its roof and rear. The rear panels can be flipped up to face the sun, recharging the onboard batteries when the car is stationary. It generates more power than it uses, meaning it could supply surplus electricity to the grid.

"The car generates more energy than it needs, therefor it will be possible to give back electricity to the power net," said Solar Team Eindhoven spokesperson Charlotte van den Heuvel.  "The car needs only half the power that the solar cells achieve. Therefor the car is energy-positive."

Solar Team Eindhoven describe the car as "ultralight, extremely aerodynamic and has an exceptionally efficient drive train, with electrical motors in the wheels, a sophisticated energy management system and a minimal battery pack."

The team developed Stella in order to explore the potential of solar-powered consumer vehicles. "The design of the car of the future has to meet the needs of modern consumers," the team said when the car was unveiled earlier this year. "The car must be capable of transporting a family from the Netherlands to France in one day, it needs to be suitable for the daily commute to work, and it needs to achieve all this in comfort."

"Since the Solar Team Eindhoven wants to contribute to the development of a car of the future, the design demands more than just a focus on speed," the team added. "Comfort, ease of use, and feasibility are all key terms."