While the incredible Solar Impulse 2 aircraft is proudly making the new rounds all over the world with its plethora of records, its land-based vehicular cousins are still seemingly relegated to just design competitions. This obviously has to do with the mass density of an automobile, which is usually greater than that of a flying plane – thus limiting the commercial practicality of such solar-powered vehicles. But one thing is for sure – the technology in itself is improving on every level, as is evident from the ‘Stella Lux’, a solar-powered family car that generates more energy than it expends!
Designed by a Dutch team at the Eindhoven University of Technology, the car is envisioned as an upgrade to the original ‘Stella’ that was developed more than 2 years ago. In terms of its engineered body, the automobile is made from a lightweight composite of carbon fiber and aluminum that accounts for a total weight of just around 825 lbs (375 kg). This weigh factor is complemented by the aerodynamic bearing of the design itself that incorporates a hollow funnel-like groove below the base of the body.
As for the specifications, the Stella Lux boasts of 15 kWh of onboard batteries, and is juiced up by an array of solar panels with an area of 5.8 sq m (or 62.4 sq ft) on the extended roof. When translated to range figures, the solar-powered vehicle can go for 621 miles (990 km) with the aid of sun and its batteries, while reaching a top speed of 78 mph (125 km/hr). Such enviable figures are accompanied by some neat features inside the car, including tactile controls with haptic feedback, weather-smart navigation systems (for optimized range) and even mood lighting.
However, the best attribute of the Stella Lux arguably relates to its effectiveness in energy management. To that end, the solar-powered car can remain energy positive by using less power for its driving than its overall power output (via solar panels) during day-time. In terms of practicality, this means the range (especially in countries that receive relatively sunlight, like Netherlands) can fluctuate, and the excess energy saved from less driving can be given back to the grid.
Interestingly, the original Stella did achieve a significant landmark by actually winning the 2013 World Solar Challenge, a biennial 1,875-mile race that takes place across the Australian outback. And now, the Stella Lux will surely look forth to replicate the honors of its predecessor, by taking part in the grueling competition in October of this year. And logic says – there is a good chance of that happening, with the car’s increased velocity credentials accompanied by the core green technology.
Anyhow, in case you are interested, do take a gander at the crowdfunding platform for raising money for the energy positive vehicle.