Automotive

Dutch students reveal solar-powered family car

Dutch students reveal solar-po...
Stella Lux has a reported range of over 1,000 km (621 mi) in the Dutch climate or 1,100 km (684 mi) in the Australian climate
Stella Lux has a reported range of over 1,000 km (621 mi) in the Dutch climate or 1,100 km (684 mi) in the Australian climate
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Stella Lux has a reported range of over 1,000 km (621 mi) in the Dutch climate or 1,100 km (684 mi) in the Australian climate
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Stella Lux has a reported range of over 1,000 km (621 mi) in the Dutch climate or 1,100 km (684 mi) in the Australian climate
Stella Lux has a top speed 125 km/h (78 mph)
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Stella Lux has a top speed 125 km/h (78 mph)
Carbon fiber and aluminum are used to keep the weight of Stella Lux down to just 375 kg (827 lb)
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Carbon fiber and aluminum are used to keep the weight of Stella Lux down to just 375 kg (827 lb)
Stella Lux has a tunnel running through its center, and sports an extended roof on either side to improve its aerodynamics
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Stella Lux has a tunnel running through its center, and sports an extended roof on either side to improve its aerodynamics
Stella Lux has been developed by a group of 21 students from different faculties of the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e)
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Stella Lux has been developed by a group of 21 students from different faculties of the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e)

Dutch students have developed a new family car that is not only powered by the sun, but generates more energy than it uses. Stella Lux seats up to four people and is designed to be efficient, intelligent and comfortable. It will compete in the World Solar Challenge in Australia later this year.

Stella Lux was developed by Solar Team Eindhoven (STE), a group of 21 students from different faculties of the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e). The students each put their studies on hold for for a year and a half in order to work on the project, the aim of which is to create "the car of the future."

In 2013, STE developed the precursor to Stella Lux, known simply as Stella, which won the Cruiser Class of the World Solar Challenge that year. The team says that Stella proved it was possible to create a solar-powered family car, and adds its goal now is to show that such a car can also be sexy and user-friendly.

Stella Lux generates electricity via 5.8 sq m (62.4 sq ft) of solar cells and has an additional battery capacity of 15 kWh. A full charge provides a range of over 1,000 km (621 mi) in the Dutch climate or 1,100 km (684 mi) in the Australian climate, and the car has a top speed of 125 km/h (78 mph).

Stella Lux has a tunnel running through its center, and sports an extended roof on either side to improve its aerodynamics
Stella Lux has a tunnel running through its center, and sports an extended roof on either side to improve its aerodynamics

To achieve these figures, the car has been designed to be both lightweight and aerodynamic. Materials including carbon fiber and aluminum are used to keep the vehicle's weight down to just 375 kg (827 lb). In order to optimize aerodynamics, meanwhile, the car has a tunnel running through its center, and it sports an extended roof on either side.

The efficiency of Stella Lux is further improved by using a specially designed navigation system. The Solar Navigator system monitors weather and chooses the optimal route accordingly.

Amongst the other features of Solar Lux are 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 that is designed to be used without the driver taking their eyes off the road.

Carbon fiber and aluminum are used to keep the weight of Stella Lux down to just 375 kg (827 lb)
Carbon fiber and aluminum are used to keep the weight of Stella Lux down to just 375 kg (827 lb)

Stella Lux will take part in the Cruiser Class of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in Australia this October. The challenge itself is a 3,000 km (1,864 mi)-long race from Darwin to Adelaide, with the Cruiser Class involving an additional focus on comfort, practicality and "realizability".

A crowdfunding campaign to support STE is underway. The pitch video can be seen below.

Source: Solar Team Eindhoven

Solar Team Eindhoven Crowdfund Video

9 comments
Douglas Bennett Rogers
Make sure it is fully loaded if there is wind! If it can go all night, it has unlimited range.
Tom Lee Mullins
I think that is really cool. It is a light weight vehicle that might not meet safety requirements of the US but I would not mind driving one. I think it has a futuristic look to it.
Daishi
For context I think the Chevy Volt uses about 230 watts/mile and the S is around 300-330. So if you had only a single 300 watt panel, after charging 1 hour you could travel 1 mile. A decent 305 watt LG panel is 17.65 square feet or 1/3.5 the size of the one on the car. That gives the car about 1080 watts of panels at around the same efficiency of the GE panel, factoring only about 85% efficiency on the manufacturer rated number that is 918 watts. That means 1 hour of charging would be good to travel 3 miles. A fairly sunny place like Arizona or New Mexico might get 5.5 sun hours a day, death valley is 6. Assuming you use the car in a place with 6 sun hours per day you would have enough sunlight in one day to travel 18.3 miles per day from Sunlight. Some countries are lower but the US average works out to a little over 40 miles a day. Even with improvements in efficiency I don't think we could entirely power average cars in the US on solar alone but this probably gets better efficiency than the Volt or Tesla (lower speed is one reason) and average driving distance in the Netherlands is likely lower than in the US.
Don Duncan
The curb weight is a ground breaking improvement. But what is the drag? Why is that important fundamental figure not given? I like photovoltaic assist. That demonstrates a serious attempt create an energy independent vehicle. Someday maybe the "assist" will be the batt. and the primary fuel source will be the solar panel.
4abetterworld
@Daishi A 300 watt solar panel produces 300 watts of continuous power under ideal conditions. That's 300 Joules (a measure of energy) / second. You can't use watts per mile to really quantify anything as watts are a measure of power. That would be like saying horsepower per mile. Instead you need fuel consumption per distance or in the case of electrical vehicles, and equivalent consumption. You can then turn this into Joules (energy) per mile. Once you know energy consumption per mile, then you can determine how big of a solar array you would need to power your car continuously. Just remember there are many other factors that play into the real calculation - sun intensity, wind, vehicle speed, hills, etc.
martinkopplow
Daishi, neither the Chevy Volt nor the Tesla S are anywhere near the cutting edge of energy efficient cars, even if the manufacturers try to make us believe. They are way too heavy - last but not least to meet ridiculously high safety standards - and have way too wide tires, just to make them look cool: I got a 15% increase of range with my electric car by mounting narrower tires alone. This Dutch concept is only about the sixth of the weight of a Tesla S, is much more efficient, and provides a large roof area. I would not be surprised if a decent solar panel technology wasn't able to get some 600W out of it for at least 6 hrs per Australian day, and a bit less during two hours more. It should be well possible to keep it going from the solar energy alone during the best hours of the day at a certain speed. Topped up from a battery as quoted, the range should be pretty impressive.
MichaelAkulov
four in 375 kg vehicle is worse than pack of 4 velonauts in 4 e-assisted velos with total curb weight of about 160 kg: Surfaces of velos and towing trailer can be solar-cell-covered providing (0.5+1)sq.m*60W=90W per velo. Comfortable 100W muscles combined with 90W of assist is enough to cruise at 40kph. Velo parked for 4h of fiesta time will get 360Wh - good for 360Wh/5Wh/km = 75km trip in the following evening ("5" is efficiency of a velo that is 30x of Tesla.) Travel at 120kph under ~4kW of assist needs other calculations. For "the scared and damaged" who can't part with each other even for an hour within visibility range nor can cycle, Stella Lux is the solution. I was talking about physically and emotionally healthy guys.
YuraG
Given the Stella's specs, to me it's far more of a revolution that the iPhone was at the time. It is sad the students have to beg for money instead of being chased by venture capitalists. I wish Steve Jobs were alive.