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Eindhoven wins world championship for solar-powered family cars in World Solar Challenge

The Solar Team Eindhoven’s Stella, the first solar‑powered family car (earlier post), is the winner of the Cruiser class of the World Solar Challenge 2013.

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On the road in Australia. Eindhoven University of Technology / Bart van Overbeeke. Click to enlarge.

Stella completed the race at 13:00 hours on 11 October, after a 3,000 km (1864 mile) journey with an average of three people on board. Their average speed, during the Challenge was 67 km/h (41.6 mph). Top speeds of 120 km/h (75 mph) with a full load of four people were no exception, the team said.

A “practicality” score contributed to the final results. The team was judged on several aspects like comfort, features, styling and aesthetics but also parallel parking and cargo space. Being the only one with a license plate, the road registration of Stella added up in the final score.

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Fast driving on raceway. Eindhoven University of Technology / Bart van Overbeeke. Click to enlarge.

A combination of time, recharging from the mains, the number of passengers and the final jury verdict on Saturday decided that the students from TU/e were the World Champions in solar-powered family cars. Event Director Chris Selwood said that after more than 3,000 kilometres it was perhaps fitting, in a category that was intended to bridge the gap between high-end technology and driving practicality, that the results would come down to practical design and the ability to appeal to everyday drivers.

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Static charging. Eindhoven University of Technology / Bart van Overbeeke Click to enlarge.

The Netherlands is strongly represented in the Race to the Sun: in the Challenger class which finished earlier this week, Delft was the winner with Nuna7 and Twente took third place.

Comments

kelly

"Their average speed, during the Challenge was 67 km/h (41.6 mph). Top speeds of 120 km/h (75 mph) with a full load of four people were no exception, the team said."

Impressive, plug-in optional - do the economics prove out?

mahonj

I was initially very skeptical about solar cars, but this one changed my mind as it can seat 4 and some luggage.

They seem to charge the battery when not driving, which you could substitute by plugging in in a less sunny place.

The main benefit is building a vehicle that is very very efficient - it seems to be able to run at 2Kw, then you can add (say 6-10 KwH) of batteries and you have a solar boosted EV.

The problems will be in terms of safety and roadholding.
While it may have a carbon fiber structure, it will be very light and have very thin tires - can this class of a vehicle find a place on real roads, and as you try to make it more normal / safer, do you eliminate its advantages and position as a super light car.

kelly

As is, one would be safer in a Stella than on a motorcycle, esp. when many low income families of 4 pile on motorcycles.

Folks forget tens of millions of original VW bugs, Minis, etc weighing under 1500 lb.(680 kg) do/did billions of passenger miles.

HarveyD

Future solar panels with 3X solar energy conversion efficiency, improved (5X) plug-in batteries and improved lighter design will make solar cars and small planes a reality in very sunny places.

It is only a matter of time!

mahonj

@Harvey,
We are seeing very little progress in high performance solar cells, especially at low cost. We are seeing a lot of progress in low cost solar cells, and flexible ones etc.

Similarly with batteries, I see a lot of talk and not much progress, although it certainly is happening, but slowly.
These innovations will have to come from outside the solar car domain (which is very small).

What will come from the solar car folk is ultra high efficiency cars (wind resistance, rolling resistance and structural strength).

The question is would you drive around with your kids in one:
@Kelly, yes, people used very unsafe cars (without seat belts etc), but they had no affordable alternatives.

As you say, it is safer than a motorcycle, but will anyone be able to afford it in the developing world ?

Could we see a load of 2-4Kw Evs out there with 1Kw from solar and the rest from batteries ? The advantage is that you could charge it while it was parked anywhere.

Remember, a bicycle runs on about 100 watts.

If it doesn't have to go fast (and bad roads probably wouldn't permit it anyway), the aerodynamics don't matter very much. You could use bicycle or motorbike wheel and brake parts, pumped up very hard, and a simple flat base, with the panel array on top as a shade. (You would need a much lighter solar array then people stick on their houses).

Maybe the shade could tilt +- 30 degrees left or right to get a better sun angle while parked.

Or maybe, having built a very low power electric flatbed, you dispense with the panels altogether and just use the batteries and very low driving power requirements.

HarveyD

Higher efficiency, (printed) lower cost, much lighter solar panels will be around soon. It is just a matter of time.

The very low cost ultra light solar vehicle you described would be a hit for the majority living in Africa, Asia, South and central America and many other countries.

Those very low cost solar panels and ultra light vehicles could be built (as kits) where they are most needed. Final assembly could be done by end users or local shops.

Our billionaires could contribute to get it started?

HarveyD

mahonj...as many, if not more fixed solar panels would be required to recharge the batteries.

I was in Nepal a while ago and many industrial batteries installed for essential com/Navaids are transported home after work for private use. Of course many essential installations operated poorly on discharged batteries in early mornings.

More solar panels and batteries would solve this problem but people cannot afford them.

mahonj

Stationary solar panels and lead acid batteries make a lot of sense for people in off grid locations.

These do not have the problems of space or weight, and so can use current technology panels and batteries.

With the glut of PV panels in the world, it should be economic for people to use them in off grid situations, as long as they can afford a typical 220W panel and matching (1Kw I guess) battery.

As long as you can get enough cash together to buy a standard sized solar panel, you should be OK.

If the people are very poor, they might have to club together to buy one and then have a rota for charging their lights, radios, phones, etc. So then it becomes a problem of finance and organisation.
jm

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