Entrant In World Solar Car Challenge Is 'Family Sedan,' Sort Of

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We're always interested in following the progress of competitors in the World Solar Challenge--a solar-powered race across Australia--but as our readers regularly point out, not immediately useful for the average electric car buyer on the street.

Solar Team Eindhoven, from the Eindhoven University of Technology, has changed all that. Sort of, anyway.

Most of the Solar Challenge's racers tread a familiar path to sun-powered glory: A single occupant, a flat, streamlined body design, and very little in the way of practicality. We can't imagine they're too pleasant for the poor souls who sit inside a glass bubble in the Australian sun, either.

In contrast, Eindhoven's design, called Stella, is more like an actual car--albeit the sort of car you'd expect to see in a sci-fi movie.

For a start, it can accommodate a full complement of four occupants. It also has a trunk, visible in the video above (via Earth Techling) under the large slab of solar cells that makes up Stella's sloping roof.

A car with four occupants and a relatively large frontal profile couldn't possible compete on even terms with the usual table-like designs from Stanford, the University of Michigan and the like, which is why Stella is entered into a slightly different class.

Called the "Cruiser" class, it focuses more on practical, usable solar vehicles, rather than the high-speed streamliners that usually dominate the headlines.

The team even describes Stella as an "energy positive" vehicle, able to generate more power than it needs. This power could be put back into the grid, but we like to think the team will use it to run an air conditioner for the occupants, lest they be slow-cooked on their way across the Australian Outback...

If you're interested in following the team's progress in the World Solar Challenge this year, you can of course follow them via various social media feeds including Facebook, Twitter and the team's website.

[Hat tip: John C. Briggs]


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Comments (20)
  1. I think those solar races are useless until we can have solar panels that are at least 90% efficient...

  2. It seems that cars only need to have solar cells generate 350 watt/mi to be able to completely drive a vehicle according to one, as always, excellent article by David Nolan. He said that both his Chevy volt and his Tesla Model S both use around that much energy in electric drive. I understand that the volt, being substantially smaller, shows the Tesla model S is super efficient in its electric driving, going and driving like a high price luxury sports car while being heavier and holding more people and yet using the same energy as Chevy volt.
    The main point is that 350 watt/mi is the magic number and that is all any solar cells would need to provide to power a vehicle. I saw it as an idea anyway. I'm not an expert in solar.

  3. Perhaps that should be 350 KWH/mile. But I suspect the Eindhoven car will be much more efficient than that.

    According to their website, the expect half of the electricity to come from solar panels on their trip.

    Still probably impractical for the average soccer mom, but as an inspirational effort, it is amazing.

  4. Dang it. 350 WH/mile not 350 KWH/mile. I hate when I'm off by three orders of magnitude.

  5. I think it is more liek 350wh/mile or around 2.86 miles per KWh.

    In order to generate 350Wh, you would have to have at least 18 sqare ft of solar panels getting 20% efficiency or about 1 and half panels of standard household solar panels running for at least 1 hr to go 1 mile.

    Do you see the math problem here? It just generates too little power to be useful.

    It seems like many people don't understand the difference between power and energy.

    A typical car requires 20-40 HP just for crusing. That is about 15KW-30KW in power. In order to sustain that, the solar panels have to put out that much power for crusing.

    Assuming that we can reduce the drag by 1/2, we are still talking about 7KW-15KW.

    Any solar owners know how large that is.

  6. A typical home solar panels of 3.3KW will require 14 panels. That can take up to 1/3 of the entire roof space of a large 2,500 sq ft 2 story home.

  7. You are over estimating things - 26 panels fit on a small ~900 sq ft ranch house; with a max output of 6.37kW. That system during the summer produces an average of 27+kWh or just over 1kWh/panel/day.


  8. Which part is overestimating?

    My house has 14 panels and it is rated for 3.3KW A/C peak and It has been producing that at its peak hour around 1pm.

    It generates about 20-21KWh per day. The KWh and KW rating are completely different as far as car goes...

  9. The Stella is probably able to travel at 40-50MPH at

  10. My post got truncated...

  11. @Neil: Certain brackets and other "esoteric" punctuation marks seem to upset our commenting system. Stick to letters and numbers, and you should be fine.

  12. It was the 'less than' symbol that was cutting things off...

  13. At 40-50MPH. the Stella probably uses

  14. The Stella probably uses less than 60Wh/mile at 40-50MPH, so it is *well* under typical EV's. And the solar panels are about 22% efficient, producing 700-900W in typical sunshine.

    So, it is very close to being a practical car; limited only by the torque of the front hub motors.

    Putting solar panels on a building, using that to charge the car is the obvious solution.


  15. Solar panels are NOT 22% efficient on average. Those are peak numbers.

    I don't know what you mean by 700W-900W? Is that per panel (household) or total wattage per car? That means the car has at least 4 piece of those panels on the roof of the car.

    Let us look at your number: 60Wh/mile? is 16 miles per KWh. That is 4 times more efficient than the typical EV today.

    So, that means it uses 1/4 of the power to cruise than Tesla and Leaf.

  16. "Weight of Stella is 380 kg (830 pounds), and battery capacity is 15 kWh; according to Jelmer333 on their Youtube channel. That means the it is less than 41Wh/mile."
    It's actually less than a quarter the weight of either the Telsa or the Leaf.

  17. Weight helps. But drag is what really matter at highway speed including the tires. So, in order to be realistic. That consumption rate would double at least and we haven't even mentioned all the accessories yet.

  18. "700-900 Watts under average Dutch conditions. Efficiency is over 22 percent. "

    Is from the comment section of this YouTube Video.

  19. Regarding the 22% efficiency: Efficiency is tested under standard conditions of 1000w/m2. 18 or 19% is good for typical cells. I think the point of the 22% is that these cells are just slightly better than normal cells and not some NASA grade cells.

  20. That 3-4% is almost "magic" in terms of product efficiency.

    Typical solar panels are lucky to be 18%.

    Like I said, in order to do this, the solar panels are just basically a "REx" in this case and rest of the power are still coming from the battery.

    Also, those are "cruising" power need, it will easily go up to 10x if it nees accelerating going up hill. We haven't even mentioned the power reduction to geographical location yet. The so called 1KW/M^2 number is on a clear day near the equator and at sea level with 90 degree angle.

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