Solar Challenge 3,000 kilometer “race” tests solar capabilities and technologies

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The future of automotive technology is vastly changing. As Toyota makes waves with its Concept-i series and its new tech company, other companies and innovators are following suit and making their own mark on the world.

The annual World Solar Challenge, which began in 1987, has seen fierce competition. This year, a Dutch family car made headlines when it was dubbed “the future.” The World Solar Challenge began in Darwin with 41 vehicles making a 3,000-kilometre trip.

While the Nuna 9 finished the race in first place for the third year in a row, another car took the spotlight with its solar capabilities. The Dutch Stella Vie combines the practicality of a family vehicle with the sleek design, energy efficiency, and innovation worthy of a car of the future.

 

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Event director Chris Selwood hailed the vehicle as a practical car of the future, saying that it was “designed with the commercial market in mind” and that it has “all the features you’d expect in a family, luxury, or sporting car.” He went on to congratulate the car’s developers, Team Eindhoven, on their achievement in creating “the most energy-efficient solar car in the field, capable of generating more power than they consume.” The Stella Vie achieves this by not only harnessing solar energy but also supplying energy back to the house or the electric grid.

Team Eindhoven’s goal in designing the car was to find the right blend of aerodynamics and aesthetics. Additionally, the vehicle contains a smart charging and discharging system capable of tracking energy prices, user agenda, etc. and determining the optimal time to charge or discharge. A smart thermostat also allows users to easily check the vehicle’s charging status at all times. The battery and solar array are smaller than those of the Stella Vie’s predecessor, Stella Lux, though they do not hinder the car’s performance. The vehicle is said to achieve a range of 1,000 kilometres on a sunny, summer day in the Netherlands.

The futuristic car also features a solar navigator that utilizes height profile maps to find the most efficient routes. The navigator also displays the energy savings compared to standard, fossil fuel-powered cars. An advanced, solar parking system allows the vehicle to self-park using height maps, parking probability maps, weather data, and more. The vehicle will choose the spot that yields the most solar energy, allowing it to charge while it is parked.

A built-in lighting system alerts the driver when he or she is either breaking or accelerating too quickly, and the vehicle’s V2X technology warns the driver of upcoming traffic conditions. Large doors, five ergonomically-optimized seats, spacious interior, and intuitive controls provide a comfortable driving experience.

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