A solar-powered off-road car? Motoring editor Jeremy Taylor and sustainable fashion expert Jessica Saunders discuss the world’s first 4×4 charged by the sun: the Stella Terra.
Inside The Stella Terra
JS – What’s this, an eco-minded alternative to the Range Rover?
JT – Well, amazing how a group of students from Holland can create a rugged, all-wheel drive when Land Rover don’t even offer an electric car!
Ha! It’s not quite as pretty as a Range Rover, though.
No, but the team from Eindhoven University relied on sponsors to build the Stella Terra. They don’t have the backing of a multi-million pound Indian conglomerate like Land Rover do with Tata.
So, how usable is it – obviously not practical for the lack of sunshine in our British climate.
The car has now completed over 600 miles of testing in the Sahara, and can travel 440 miles in the right weather conditions. It is only a two-seater, but the solar panels on the roof ensure a top speed of 90mph.
That’s impressive. However, it doesn’t look that rugged?
Solar cars need to be as trim as possible, so the Terra combines a lightweight frame and aerodynamic profile to extract the maximum performance. It weighs around 1.2 tonnes, a lot less than a conventional all-wheel drive.
I suppose the big question is what happens when clouds appear – how does the lithium-ion battery cope then?
It depends on that battery pack holding sufficient energy. According to Solar Team Eindhoven, the car is ten years ahead of its time and might prove an inspiration for a major manufacturer to get involved.
Couldn’t they just add more solar panels?
That was actually a key problem: keeping the car light and still providing the surface area for enough panels on the roof. Solar panels are much more efficient these days so, as technology improves, solar cars might one day be a practical alternative. Finally, here’s what the university’s professor and mobility expert, Maarten Steinbuch, had to say to The Green Lane:
‘It is already difficult in normal conditions to build an energy-efficient car that can handle rough conditions, let alone to integrate solar panels into the car as well. I haven’t seen anyone do that yet. I expect that in five to ten years electric cars will be part of our entire energy grid system. And when the home battery makes its appearance, it will even be possible to generate energy via a solar car and deliver it back to your home. Solar Team Eindhoven’s innovations could change the future.’
Discover more about the Stella Terra at solarteameindhoven.nl
Jessica Saunders is Director of Programmes at London College of Fashion, studying for a PhD in sustainable e-textile design.