Solar-Powered Energy-Positive Vehicle Goes 544 Miles on a Single Charge


Students from Eindhoven University of Technology are prepping solar-powered Stella for the 2013 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge (October 6 to October 13).

In the run-up to the rally, the students took Stella for a stroll.  544miles later, Stella came to halt.  The team had covered that distance on a single charge under partly cloudy skies.  At 544 miles, Stella far exceed the team’s expectations of 497 miles of total range with clear skies overhead.

The Solar Team Eindhoven vehicle draws most of its energy from the 6 roof-mounted solar panels, but features batteries for long-distance travel and to assist when burst of acceleration are required.

Stella is claimed to be one of the world’s only energy-positive vehicles.  This means that in daily use, Stella generates more energy that it consumes.  The surplus energy could be sent back to the grid.

In less than one day, Stella will take part in the 2013 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, where universities from around the globe will compete in a 1,620-mile race through the Australian Outback.

We’ll be the first to say that Stella isn’t all that attractive, but with it being energy positive, we’d gladly take one.

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20 Comments on "Solar-Powered Energy-Positive Vehicle Goes 544 Miles on a Single Charge"

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Imagine with panels of say 60% efficiency and lighter batteries – (both possible in a few years). Could this come to mainstream cars, not as a sole means of providing power but as a range extender? Comments…

would hate to get hit by a smart ED in that thing

Or worse, a flaming Tesla!

The mutual-assured-destruction theory of vehicle design, has about run its course. It is time to start designing vehicles for sustainability, before we are all walking again.

Looks like a larger version of GM’s Sunraycer, which won the very first World Solar Challenge in 1987. Pretty much blew the competition away.

Can we use the solar panels on Tesla?

Sure, to run the enormous infotainment center. We are so far from understanding what sustainable transportation is it would be funny, if it weren’t so tragic.

On a heavy and quick car like the Tesla, the solar panels would not make a dent in the consumption. Stella is much lighter, and the two front hub motors are incredibly efficient – like ~98% – but they are not very powerful. I think each one is about 14ft/lbs? I think it can go ~40-50mph on just ~50Wh/mile, or something in that range. Really, really efficient, so it can run pretty well on ~700-900W output on the panels.

So, on a “regular” EV, solar PV cells could run the other things on the car, but it might only be 10-20% of the energy needed to move the car.

My question is how fast can this car go such as if it can go 15 to 20 miles on hour and have 500 miles of range it sort of can’t help us unless it’s some type of oil doomsday. But if this car could say go 80 miles range at 60 miles on hour and be parked in a parking lot while your at work or shopping and take in solar energy then there is a lot of cool things that can happen for it.

We already have “some type of oil doomsday.” It is called climate change.

On day one, the lead cruiser class car covered 356 miles at about 42 mph average.

For comparison, the current record for a Tesla S on a single charge is 426 miles at 18 mph average.

If you think you can go faster, with a 240 volt, J1772 charger, the best you’ll do is 27.7 mph average at 60 mph.

Incredibly, it takes the huge output of a DC Supercharger to match their average speed.

The take away is, brute force can’t beat elegant efficiency.

Correction: That distance was for the, 50 mph average, challenge class car. The cruiser class car “only” went 300 miles. Still better than a 60 kWh Tesla could manage.

For the interested, the fleet of competitors can be followed on this dashboard.

I’m rather keen on seeing how the cruiser class performs – the class that best represents usable vehicles. The leader in this class at the end of day 1, Powercore Suncruiser by Hochschule Bochum SolarCar Team, doesn’t look a world apart from something VW might produce.

Can recommend looking at Episode 3 video at the end of day 1.


Looking at Tesla’s numbers again, it appears an 85 kWh Tesla S could just match the cruiser class car, on a single charge, at 42 mph. A 60 kWh version wouldn’t come close. And, of course, at the end of the day there would need to be a 240 volt charge station out there in the Australian outback. 🙂

0 stars in any crash test…

Try crashing them into each other, not SUV murder weapons. By this logic, all cars should be designed to survive a collision with a tractor trailer.

Now that I think about it, the self-driving cars, that are being promoted now, may be the only way to get sensible vehicles on the roads. It would be politically unacceptable to ban SUV’s, or even require a commercial license to operate these obscenities. But if they drove themselves, they couldn’t injure other road users.

Makes far more sense to store up that energy from fixed solar panels and dump it into a cars batteries. Same for solar airplanes.

However, the press goes wild for these impractical creatures, so there you are.

A positive energy vehicle sounds like the one pictured in Logan’s Run, drawing energy from the sun and giving it back as needed to move or to whatever need electricity.

How practical is Eindhoven University solar-powered Stella?

Taking four people 2600 km in just over 5 days from Darwin to Adelaide in searing heat, high winds, variable road conditions, and to finish under overcast skies seems to me to be fantastic progress in practicality. This is the stuff of dreams only a few years ago.