World first fully solar-powered SUV: Zero-emission vehicles are becoming increasingly popular, but driving electric vehicles in areas with limited charging infrastructure is nearly impossible. Stella Terra can change that.
The khaki green SUV uses solar panels on its sloping roof to charge its battery, meaning it can travel long distances on just the sun. The “world’s first all-terrain solar car” built by a team of students from Eindhoven University of Technology (TUE) could help connect remote areas with “less developed roads and unreliable power grids” and help with emergencies and transport, according to Tim, the team’s event leader. said Thieme Bosman.
The team tested the vehicle in Morocco earlier this month, driving more than 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) between the country’s northern coast and the Sahara desert in the south. “Morocco has a lot of different landscapes and different surfaces in a very short distance,” Bosman said, adding that the car was “tested on every type of surface that a car of this type could encounter.”
The road legal car has a top speed of 145 kilometers per hour (90 mph). On a sunny day, its battery range is approximately 710 kilometers (441 miles) on-road and 550 kilometers (342 miles) off-road, depending on road conditions. In cloudy conditions, the team estimates that the distance can be reduced by 50 kilometers.
Boseman noted that the vehicle proved to be about a third more efficient on the road than expected, and its lightweight design reduced the likelihood of snagging on rough terrain and reduced suspension stress.
Electric SUVs are heavier than conventional electric vehicles and require larger, heavier batteries to power them.
“The current innovation in the SUV market for previous models, we literally started from scratch and designed everything ourselves,” Boseman said. Reducing the weight of the vehicle was very important and a team of 22 students worked to make every element extremely efficient. The Stella Terra weighs just 2,645 pounds (1,200 kg), which is about 25 percent lighter than a mid-size SUV. Stella Terra technical manager Bob van Ginkel said the aerodynamic design also reduces drag and uses “light and strong” composite materials to reduce weight.
“One of the advantages of rooftop solar panels is that we can have smaller batteries because we charge them while driving,” van Ginkel added. The solar-powered SUV can go off-road and doesn’t need a charging station, giving drivers the freedom to go where they want, van Ginkel said. The only limitation, he said, is “What do you do when you want to sleep?”
To answer that question, the Stella Terra is based on a previous solar-powered camper made by the university, in which designers adapt elements of an SUV for multi-day long-distance trips: for example, the car seats can be folded all the way down. to make a bed. When the car is stationary, the solar panels can be deployed to maximize charging while also acting as a solar sail.
Boseman said the team also developed highly efficient solar panel converters, which he believes will benefit the broader solar industry. From mountain peaks to desert dunes
After launching the prototype SUV in September, the team traveled to Morocco to test the vehicle in various off-road conditions.
Starting in Tangier, the team traveled through the rugged Rif mountains and tried Stella Terra’s first off-road challenge with fast climbs and descents. Heading south through Fez, the team tested the car on the mountain roads of Midelet, one of Morocco’s highest cities, and ended their journey in the Sahara desert, where they took a loose, sandy track to Stella Terra.
They suffered a setback early in the trip when the steering system broke, but they were able to find new parts and repair the vehicle at a local repair shop. Boseman said the highlight of the trip was “the vast landscape and land we experienced. Every hour of driving was completely different. It gives us a chance to try a lot of things, but it’s also been an incredible journey for the team to get here. “
This trip was not affected by the earthquake in Morocco at the beginning of September, but considering the huge impact of this disaster on the country, the Stella Terra team decided to join forces with the Red Cross to launch a crowdfunding campaign to help the victims.
Concept to reality:
Bosman said the TUE Automotive Innovation Lab has been experimenting with solar-powered vehicles for more than a decade, producing concept cars that are often “five to 10 years ahead of the market.” A big challenge was turning the concept car into something that could be mass-produced. Graduates of the first TUE Solar Project student team announced in 2022 that their company Lightyear will start producing cars equipped with solar panels. The company filed for bankruptcy earlier this year, but reopened a few months later to focus on developing new, cheaper models.
Boseman and his colleagues hope to have their concept SUV ready for production in the near future. “Our goal is to inspire not only ordinary people, but also the automotive industry, the Fords and Chryslers of the world, to rethink their designs and innovate faster than is currently possible,” Boseman said.
“Now it’s up to the market who has the resources and capacity to make these changes and move to more sustainable vehicles.”