Picture this. You return home from a long road trip where you spent zero on gas. The trip was powered 100% by the sun. Your car automatically connects to your house and discharges a cache of excess energy. With the leftover energy from the trip you to run a load of laundry and binge-watch Game of Thrones before hitting the sack.
Sound futuristic? Not so. The designers of the first family solar car have already engineered this scenario into their super-performing sunshine vehicle, Stella Lux.
And the car’s super-performing solar panels? Those are from Sunpower, of course. The same ultra-efficient panels used for Renova Solar’s customers.
MAXIMIZING: Three Stella engineers show off 62 square feet of SunPower panels fitted onto Stella’s roof.
“We were thrilled when we learned these pioneering students at Eindhoven University in Holland chose SunPower for the panels to run their car,” says Renova CEO Vincent Battaglia. “They’d done a global study of solar panels and discovered SunPower panels were the most efficient and advanced on the market.”
The low-riding car that looks like a miniature bus with a duck’s tail can run for 621 miles on a single charge, will carry four people and travels at a maximum speed of 78 mph. The original Stella won the 2013 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, an annual race where competitors design and drive solar-powered vehicles in a 1,864-mile long trek across the Australian desert. The 2015 Stella Lux is lighter and faster and includes a raft of new technologies like a geolocation system that helps drivers find the most energy-efficient route and software that maps traffic patterns by talking to other cars.
“It’s a pretty strong testimonial when a group of eager, idealistic engineers looking for optimum performance go to SunPower for a key element in their design,” continues Battaglia. “These young designers were all about squeezing performance out of every inch of their prototype. They minimized the car’s weight to 826 pounds using carbon fiber and aluminum for the body. They maximized aerodynamics in the newest model by running a tunnel through the center of the vehicle.
UPDATED: The 2015 Stella.
“You’ve got to ask yourself: How good are SunPower solar panels if they’re being used at the cutting edge of the quest for solar transportation?
TEAM EFFORT: 21 students collaborated to design the world's first solar-powered family car using SunPower solar panels.