Solar Car Stella Terra Completes 620-mile Test Drive

Students celebrate solar car Stella Terra's 620-mile drive across Morocco in its pioneering test.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Students celebrate solar car Stella Terra’s 620-mile drive across Morocco in its pioneering test. Image credit: STE / Rien Boonstoppel

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Students celebrate solar car Stella Terra’s 620-mile drive across Morocco in its pioneering test.

A futuristic solar-powered vehicle named Stella Terra recently completed a milestone 620-mile journey across Morocco using only energy from the sun. The successful test drive demonstrated the potential for sustainable solar transportation to become a reality.

Stella Terra was designed by a team of students from Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands. Led by project manager Wisse Bos, the young engineers set out to build an innovative solar car that could operate off-grid and withstand harsh environments. Their goal was to inspire a transition toward renewable energy in the automotive industry.

The slick, aerodynamic solar car runs completely on solar power thanks to high-efficiency panels rounding its roof. This enables the two-seater vehicle to reach speeds up to 90 mph and drive up to 441 miles on a single sunny day, all without ever needing to plug in. With a curved, lightweight chassis and energy-saving features, Stella Terra aims to push the boundaries for what’s possible with solar-powered cars.

To test their design, the team took Stella Terra on an epic journey covering 620 miles of varying terrain across Morocco earlier this year. From the cities of Tangier and Fes to the Sahara Desert, the solar car traversed paved roads, dirt tracks, sand dunes, and more. Despite some initial steering issues, the solar car excelled during the challenging off-road portions of the trip.

According to the team, the test drive demonstrated that Stella Terra used 30% less energy than expected. The solar panels were able to provide enough power for the entire journey without any need for recharging stations along the way.

Stella Terra’s successful journey powered solely by the sun demonstrates that solar vehicles can provide reliable transportation even in remote regions lacking electrical infrastructure. This is a major milestone for sustainable mobility. Most electric vehicles today face range limitations due to a lack of charging stations, especially in more isolated areas.

See also: IKEA Solar Cargo Bikes

Drivers experience “range anxiety” worrying about their battery charge running out before reaching a charger. But Stella Terra’s solar panels generate enough electricity onboard to keep the car running all day in sunny conditions without any external charging. This freedom from reliance on charging stations is a key advantage of solar power.

By overcoming this infrastructure barrier, innovations like a solar car could truly transform sustainable transportation worldwide. Places with scarce public charging access could still adopt solar EVs, expanding clean mobility to more communities. Stella Terra’s accomplishment is a promising step toward solar-electric cars becoming a viable, emissions-free transportation option anywhere under the sun.

While the sun powers Stella Terra down the open road, the car relies on an onboard battery pack to store solar energy for cloudy conditions or short hauls. The storage system uses rechargeable lithium-ion battery cells, similar to other electric vehicles. This built-in reserve ensures the solar car can keep running even when sunlight is low or intermittent.

Make no mistake: the solar panels are the driving force behind this car. Nearly the entire exterior surface, from the roof to the hood, is packed with highly advanced photovoltaic cells designed to optimize solar absorption. These panels operate at a remarkable 97% efficiency, meaning they can convert nearly all captured sunlight into usable electrical current. Compared to around 15-20% efficiency for conventional panels, this high-performance solar array gives Stella Terra a major edge.

With ultra-efficient cells able to make the most of every ray, the sun’s potential to fuel transportation is unlocked. The panels turn Stella Terra into a solar sponge, making a rechargeable battery just a backup. This is solar-powered mobility made possible by cutting-edge solar technology.

That efficiency is crucial when surface area is at a premium. The limited real estate on vehicles makes solar power a challenge. By packing in top-tier solar cells, the solar car maximizes its driving range. The panels also provide extra electricity to charge phones, cameras, and other handheld devices.

With shedding weight a priority, the Stella Terra design team chose lightweight and robust materials to reduce mass. The car weighs about a quarter as much as a typical midsize SUV, further contributing to its energy efficiency. An aerodynamic, teardrop shape also helps minimize drag.

The students hope their pioneering solar car will catch the eye of major automakers and demonstrate the radical innovations needed for sustainable transportation. While significant hurdles remain, the Stella Terra project highlights the tremendous potential for vehicles powered by the sun. With more investment and research, solar-electric cars could play a leading role in a cleaner transportation future.

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