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A Family-Sized Solar Car for the Road

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Solar-powered Stella on the road. Image courtesy

Solar-powered Stella on the road. Image courtesy

A solar car named Stella recently transported its team of designers nearly 385 miles along Highway 1, from Los Angeles to San Francisco, according to news reports. Touted as the first solar-powered four-seat car designed for the road, Stella’s Dutch design team brought the car to the U.S. to celebrate “National Drive Electric Week,” writes Sarah Buhr for Tech Crunch.

The design team of students from Eindhoven University of Technology, led by Lex Hoefsloot,  joined Dutch sponsor NXP Semiconductors in San Francisco for a car communication event, writes Matt Mercuro for Auto World News.

Stella can drive up to 500 miles on a single charge from the large solar panel on its roof, and produces twice as much energy as it uses, The Sacramento Bee reports. Mercuro writes that the 1.5-kilowatt array of solar panels provides power to the car’s lithium battery and that the car can reach speeds of 80 miles per hour.

The car features a steering wheel that expands when the driver goes too fast and contracts when the car is moving too slowly, Mercuro writes. Near the back of the vehicle, there is a trunk you can see by lifting the solar panels. Stella features a tablet screen in the dashboard that tells drivers how long they have to wait until a traffic light ahead turns green or red. The car can also communicate with traffic lights and other vehicles, Mercuro writes.

Stella won a World Solar Car challenge race in Australia in 2013, Mercuro writes. And, as André Snoeck writes for, the car is a Guinness World Record holder as one of 507 electric cars in a parade, a number that beats the previous record by 26, according to a Plug in America press release.

Some commenters to the Tech Crunch article are concerned about safety, but most are enthusiastic. Daniel Torkar writes that just because a vehicle is lighter does not necessarily mean it would be less safe; a lighter vehicle might be safer because it crashes with less force, he writes. Rod Beckwith responds: “I don’t think I would want to be hit with any other car riding in this until I see the safety studies.”

And commenter Daniel Myers responds:

The hard part is safety. Thin walled aluminum or carbon fiber have to be used very carefully to keep it light and safe. Particularly on roads with excursions and hummers.

Stella might be ready for the roads within five to 10 years, Mercuro quotes Hoefsloot as saying. Hoefsloot added that it is a big dream and will require hard work to get Stella to that point.

Here is a video about Stella’s US trip:


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