Solar-Powered Off-Road Vehicle Successfully Completes 620-Mile Journey Across North Africa

A groundbreaking solar-powered car heralded as the world’s first off-road long-distance vehicle without recharging, has successfully completed a 620-mile (1,000km) test drive through the challenging terrains of Morocco and the Sahara.

Crafted by students from Eindhoven University of Technology, the two-seat Stella Terra proved its mettle in diverse landscapes as part of its final evaluation, focused on the durability of its lightweight structure and aerodynamic design.

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This innovative car draws power from multiple solar panels adorning its roof, boasting a top speed of 90mph (145kmph) while weighing a mere 1,200kg (1.2 tonnes). On a sunny day, it can cover at least 440 miles (710km) solely on solar energy.

Wisse Bos, the manager of Solar Team Eindhoven, extolled the pioneering technology behind Stella Terra, which marries a lightweight frame with exceptionally efficient solar panels, stating that it’s a decade ahead of anything available in the market. Bos emphasized the unique challenge of ensuring the car’s ability to endure rigorous off-roading conditions while remaining lightweight and solar-powered, which necessitated the team to design nearly every aspect of Stella Terra themselves, from its suspension to the solar panel inverters. Their efforts push the boundaries of technology.

The car also incorporates a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, enabling operation in less sunny climes over shorter distances. The solar panels generate sufficient electricity to power various devices, such as cooking appliances and electronic gadgets like phones and cameras.

The 22 students, aged between 21 and 25, pursued this project during a year-long break from their studies, bringing the solar-powered car to life.

During the challenging test journey across the arid landscapes of North Africa, from Tangier to the Sahara, the car encountered a minor setback when its steering system failed. However, the issue was promptly resolved, ensuring the continued success of the endeavor.

Bob van Ginkel, the project’s technical manager, expressed hope that Stella Terra would inspire car manufacturers like Land Rover and BMW to explore more sustainable practices in the automotive industry. He emphasized the car’s remarkable comfort in off-road conditions due to its lightweight construction, which prevented it from getting stuck.

The bespoke converter used in Stella Terra was found to be an impressive 97% efficient at converting solar energy into electrical power. This surpassed the team’s original expectations by a third. It’s important to note that most solar panels on the market typically achieve about 15% to 20% efficiency, with the most efficient ones reaching roughly 45%.

While there is still work to be done before Stella Terra’s design can hit the market, it represents a promising avenue for major automakers to explore.

The main challenge in creating solar-powered cars remains the limited surface area for solar panels. Highly efficient panels capable of powering vehicles over long distances are costly to produce.

The Stella Terra project operates as a not-for-profit endeavor, relying on sponsors for its budget. The exact total project cost remains undisclosed.

Interestingly, another attempt to break into the solar electric car market was made by Atlas Technologies, a subsidiary of the Netherlands-based Lightyear. Last year, the company aimed to produce solar-electric cars priced at €500,000 but faced bankruptcy due to a lack of orders. The company has since reemerged with a new model, costing $40,000 per vehicle and offering a range of about 500 miles between charges.

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