Stella – the solar powered car

Southend has its fair share of sunny days so what better way to soak up some of that sunshine and do a favour for the environment whilst you are about it than by getting your hands on Stella, the world’s first solar powered family car.

That’s right, Stella is no ordinary gimmick of a machine designed just to win the various solar challenges around the world, but is designed to carry a full complement of passengers, too – four to be exact.

A Dutch secret

The car was designed and developed by students at Eindhoven University in the Netherlands.

Holland might not be the first place you think of when it comes to days of endless sunshine for the solar power of a family car.

As design team member Juliette van der Lof told Expert Reviews in July 2014, they had to run the gauntlet of critics who complained that wet weather, grey skied Holland was hardly the place to begin to develop a solar powered vehicle. But she explained that when it is cloudy it is actually possible to make better use of the light, which is scattered by the clouds and so falls on different parts of the machine’s solar panelled roof.

As a result, for more than 80% of the year the car actually produces more energy from the sun that it uses to get along. For the remaining 20% of the time, it is possible simply to hook it up to the mains and recharge the battery overnight or in about 7 to 10 hours.

Stella made her debut appearance in London in July 2014. In September it began a tour of the United States, starting at the Intelligent Transportation Society World Congress held in Detroit.

Performance

The whole car weighs just 380 kg – more or less as much as the four people it can seat – and this helps it achieve its very impressive performance statistics:

  • up to 500 miles on a single battery charge;
  • indefinitely whilst there are still daylight hours;
  • it is a large 15 ft in length but only 4 ft tall and very dynamically shaped;
  • it is claimed that the car can reach speeds of up to 80 mph;
  • there is an on-board tablet device which warns the driver as traffic lights are about to change and may be used to contact other drivers; and
  • the steering wheel gets bigger if you are going too fast and smaller if you are going too slow.

A story published in the Daily Mail newspaper last month described how Stella made the 385-mile road trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco entirely on the power of the sun.

So they are exciting but still rather early days yet for the solar powered family car, so we won’t be seeing you any time soon popping in for a motor insurance quote. One of its chief design students told the Daily Mail that it might be five or ten years before the car is seen in a dealer’s showroom.

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