Solar-Powered ‘Energy Positive’ Family Car Will Race In Australia

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Originally published on RenewEconomy.
By Sophie Vorrath

Two years after Dutch students from the Eindhoven University of Technology produced the prototype of a solar-powered family car called Stella, its progeny, the “energy positive” four-seater Stella Lux, is set to compete in Australia in the 2015 World Solar Challenge, a 3,000km race from Darwin to Adelaide.

The Stella Lux generates electricity via 5.8 square meters of solar cells and has an additional battery capacity of 15kWh. This makes it energy positive, meaning it generates more energy than it consumes during an entire year – energy that can be fed back into the grid, or perhaps even used to help power the energy independent household of the future.


Like its predecessor, Stella – which won the Cruiser Class of the World Solar Challengein 2013 – the car was developed by Solar Team Eindhoven (STE); a group of 21 students from different faculties of the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) who put their studies on hold for for a year and a half to create their vision of the family “car of the future.”

According to the World Solar Challenge website, in the inaugural race of the Cruiser Class, the Stella traveled over 3000km with an external energy input of just 64kWh – “to put this into context, a modern family car returning around 5ltr/100km would use an energy equivalent of around 5000kWh!”


The current version of the car, which will race in Australia this weekend, has a range per charge of over 1,000km in the Dutch Climate – as much as 10 times the range of the average pure electric vehicle on the market today – or 1,100km in the Australian climate, and a top speed of 125km/h.

The team has also aimed to make the Stella Lux user-friendly and ‘sexy’, which, as you can see in the images, is probably in the eye of the beholder. But it certainly looks impressive.

Its current design has a tunnel running through the car’s center, and an extended roof on either side to improve its aerodynamics. It’s construction from lightweight materials including carbon fibre and aluminum keep the vehicle’s weight down to just 375kg.


The car’s efficiency is further improved by the use of a specially designed solar navigator system, that monitors weather and chooses the optimal route accordingly, and minimizes braking and acceleration to conserve energy.

Other notable features include the ability to unlock the car doors when a paired smartphone is nearby, a smartphone app that can prepopulate routes based on a user’s calendar appointments, and a touchscreen with haptic buttons designed to be used without the driver taking their eyes off the road.

The Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, which kicks off this Sunday, will not only test the Stella Lux’s speed and range, but – as a competitor in the Cruiser Class – will have an additional focus on comfort, practicality and “realizability”.

We will keep you posted on how it goes.

Reprinted with permission.

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17 thoughts on “Solar-Powered ‘Energy Positive’ Family Car Will Race In Australia

  • Catamaran on wheels! I hope it is amphibious and will take it fishing!

  • Great car for AU outback, and rural America.

    • A few modifications and it will be great for driving around Australian towns. Or Dutch ones. It will need to be made more kangaroo resistant for regular driving in the outback.

  • I really enjoy this car. I’m excited to see designs like this and self powered vehicles like this move into production.

  • As with all self powered solar cars, they currently are at somewhere around 1,300 watts of power without external refueling needed (5.8 sq. meters x 1,000 W /sq. meter x 22% solar cell efficiency = 1,276 W.) My LEAF uses around 20,000 W at 60 mph on level ground. Assuming this car is as much as ten time more efficient, it still would require 2,000 W to keep up with traffic. Solar cells will have to get close to 100% efficient before this idea has even a chance of becoming practical. Having said that, I encourage these vehicles to be built as there are more things to be discovered and more Engineers-in-training that need the experience.

    • I don’t think the concept is to have solar supply 100% energy while driving. Rather, its that under normal daily usage, like 30 mile daily commute, while parked, the solar cells provide much of the daily energy, it not all.

      The cell area is 86 square feet. Aside from the fact that driving it all day on 15kwhr, some 680 miles, will not allow it to charge overnight, it could get plenty of miles from sunlight in an average daily commute given its extreme efficiency.

      It was not intended to run solely from solar, but benefits from it. Since its cost is largely in the prototype domain, we would have to speculate on how much solar makes sense on the car, versus stationary at charge sites.

      The Stella was intended to be charged up at night like a regular EV.

      For panels, we could guesstimate a cost per square foot somewhere south of 5 dollars. Thats less than $500. With the changing economics of solar, the outlook changes.

      The real impact of the Stella is its efficiency. Over 600 miles with 15kwhr puts it in a stellar class. 🙂

      The fact that it seats four and travels on the highway points to how far we have come and how far we need to go in increasing efficiency.

      Here is a good technical discussion on the Stella Lux.

    • Under fairly ideal circumstances (eg. always having a spot in the open to park it in) we could slap enough sola PV on a Leaf so that it would generate enough electricity for it to drive the average daily distance a car is driven in Australia, which is not that much more than 40 kilometers a day. The Stella is just a more exteme and technically not roadworthy in Australia version of doing this.

      • I have never understood why EVs have not utilized PVs to up their range or simply to reduce grid use. Slide out grids, for use when parked, may be a possibility. Of course there are limitations. Many might be solved with an additional onboard charger or even a small generator for longer trips.

        • It adds to the initial cost of the vehicle and people who always park under cover won’t get much use out of it. At the moment they’d rather keep the cost of the vehicle down or increase the battery size to add more range. But personally I would be willing to pay extra to have solar cells on an electric car.

          • I use my garage to reduce sun damage in the summer and snow in the winter, but if there was an advantage to parking in the open in sunny weather, I would certainly take that advantage. Solar cells on the garage roof is also a good idea, in my opinion.

  • This is my favorite solar tech car. It can actually seat passengers, and drive on the highway a long ways. Solar for auto transport has come a long way. What I most admire is how much they have done to lower drag.

  • This could be very well be the future of cars. Goodbye range anxiety. These can have a much more sustainable footprint. Low weight, low drag, no external energy source needed, minimal production pollution, especially when materials and production choices incorporate sustainability. Safety and driving can and will be provided bij sensors and electronics rather than extra construction elements. Also it doesn’t need a large battery so the gigafactories can produce for more cars. Such cars could be produced in large numbers.

  • I think it is time to fold up these solar car races. It was a very interesting idea a decade ago, but it tends to make people think that these tiny student produced go karts are what solar and electric cars are all about. We are mainstream now, with no apologies, competing and beating the old i.c.e. technology of the last century. Solar PV is also shouldering out coal without subsidy. Most of us have realized that PV on the roof of a car is a rather inefficient use for it. Perhaps when it becomes a paint product at 5 cents per watt then it may be worth throwing on a vehicle.

    • Why is it more inefficient on the roof of a car than on a house roof.

      • The roof of a car is flat. On a house the panels can be angled to face the Sun.

        And houses rarely park under a tree….

        Someone driving 13,000 miles a year in an EV needs about 3 kW of panels to provide as much electricity as they need in a year. Just guessing, you could fit about a 1/4 kW on a car roof.

        • True for an average car, but not this one with its higher efficiency. This car can run 30 miles on what it has on its roof if left in the parking lot (not underneath a tree) while at work.

          Everyone in California is looking for a shady parking space. There are loads of sunny ones.

          But its probably more useful to have carport solar chargers or commercial roof mounted solar charging cars in parking lots.

  • A follow up article on the Dutch victories in the Solar Challenge 2015 would be nice.

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