Traveling along the highways of Europe, a campervan named “Stella Vita” has driven almost 2,000 kilometers without stopping for fuel or plugging in to charge.
Described as a “self-sustaining house on wheels,” the campervan has solar panels fitted to its roof and is powered by the energy of the sun alone.
It is completely equipped with living essentials including a double bed, sofa, kitchen area, and a bathroom. It can fit two people, who can drive, cook breakfast and watch television using just the vehicle’s solar-charged battery, according to its creators, 22 students at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands.
“The main goal is to really inspire people and the market and society to accelerate the transition towards a more sustainable future. What we’re trying to do is to show people and show companies what’s already possible,” said 21-year-old Tijn Ter Horst, a member of Solar Team Eindhoven 2021, which made the vehicle, with funding from sponsors.
The team started brainstorming for the project last September and they came up with the idea for Stella Vita in two months. From November 2020 until March this year, they designed the campervan, aiming to make it as aerodynamic and lightweight as possible while still making it look good.
The vehicle can typically travel up to 600 kilometres on its 60-kWh battery when fully charged, even at night and when it is cloudy. On a day when the sun is shining throughout, its range increases by an extra 130 kilometres. The team drove approximately 300 kilometers between each destination, at a top speed of 120 kilometres per hour.
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When it’s parked, the extendable roof can rise up to allow passengers to stand, and extrasolar panels slide out from the sides, doubling the solar surface from 8.8 square metres to 17.5 square metres. While stationary, passengers can also track their energy consumption using the built-in infotainment system.
“It creates energy awareness. You can see how much energy is coming in from the sun, how much energy is in your battery, and then it tells you, for example, if you want to make pancakes, how much energy it costs to make pancakes,” said Horst.
It’s not the first solar-powered vehicle created by the university. Solar Team Eindhoven 2013 made what it called the world’s first solar-powered family car, and teams of students have built a new family car every two years since.
This year’s team decided that “it’s time to take the next step in mobility” by creating a vehicle that allows people to live on the sun’s energy, not just drive on it. The previous solar cars that the team made were producing so much energy that they could even power other electric vehicles. So that’s why we came up with the idea: ‘okay, what are we going to do with the extra energy,?” said Horst.
Five Solar Team Eindhoven alumni went on to found Lightyear in 2016, a company that commercially produces family solar cars. Horst wants Stella Vita to similarly drive the market forward, adding, “I think there’s a lot of things that the complete mobility sector can adopt and use. We’ll try to go on with our mission when we’re back home.”