Here at Aussie Car Loans we love talking about anything to do with cars – not necessarily everything to do with car finance (!) – and looking through the various articles over the past year it seems we have a keen interest in alternative propulsion methods to the plain old ICE (Internal Combustion Engine).

We’ve written about steam-powered cars, flying cars and of course, electric cars. But we haven’t covered solar-powered cars. Until now.

Later this year, on 6th October, to be exact, the World Solar Challenge will kick off again. As in previous years (it’s held every two years), it’s really an academic exercise to see how far a solar-powered vehicle can go, but it’s still quite a distance: the 3,000 km from Adelaide to Darwin. I suppose you’d have to say the route is a little more favourable to solar-powered cars than, let’s see, a circumnavigation of Tasmania!

But this year things are going to be a little different. Instead of the usual array of strange-looking ultralight vehicles with room for one occupant – the driver – in a tiny cockpit, this time entry from the Eindhoven University of Technology in Holland is described as a ‘family vehicle’.

Although (as you can see from the photograph) the car doesn’t look anything like a normal family car, it seems to be able to seat up to four people, although there is nothing in the specification that indicates the number of passengers it can carry. In fact, an entirely new category has been created in the competition to accommodate the Eindhoven entry, called ‘Cruiser Class’.

The car, christened ‘Stella’ by the team, is fitted with high yield silicon solar panels on the roof and is designed to be able to store any excess energy generated by the panels for use whenever direct solar power is not available. So, in theory, Stella could continue to drive at night, but the rules of the Challenge state that all driving must be between 8 am and 5 pm. Stella has a claimed range of 600km and can reach a top speed of 110kmh.

The car is made out of lightweight carbon fibre and aluminium, so it weighs in at only 380kg. This, combined with its flattened aerodynamic shape (it’s 4.5 metres long and 1.65 metres wide) makes it an incredibly energy-efficient vehicle.

In the spirit of innovation, the team that built the car has also included a buttonless touchscreen dashboard and a steering wheel that expands or contracts depending on your speed.

In practice the World Solar Challenge does not force contestants to generate all their solar power from the vehicle alone – there are solar-powered charging stations along the way and Stella will only generate around half the energy it needs, with the rest coming from the recharging stations.

The twenty-two students that are part of the team are planning to get the vehicle fully ‘road legal’ after the Challenge, and ultimately sell the car commercially.

Going Dutch may have a completely different meaning in a few years time!

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