Over 40 teams of students have begun an epic 3000km race from Darwin to Adelaide in specially built solar powered cars.
One of the teams taking part is the Solar Team Eindhoven, comprised of students from the Eindhoven University of Technology. They have built Stella Lux, a unique solar powered family vehicle using the most advanced technology from NXP and others. On Saturday the car took part in qualifying and topped the group meaning it took the honour of starting on pole position for Sunday’s inaugural stage.
The students are now well on their way, driving by day and camping in the desert at night. Just yesterday Stella Lux became the first solar-powered family car ever to drive 1500km on one single charge.
Each day the challenge starts at 8am and the students have until 5pm to go as far as they can before setting up camp in the outback. The next day they start again from where they left off.
We had a quick chat with Tom Selten from Solar Team Eindhoven about the car and the challenge.
You’ve been driving around Australia for a few days now, what has the public reaction been to Stella?
They’re quite amazed I think. The car we’ve built, Stella Lux, is one of the most spectacular cars in the race. It’s a four person vehicle, the only one in the whole challenge. Compared to the previous Stella we’ve done a really good job of the interior. Sitting in it is much more like a normal car.
How well is the new Stella driving?
We can drive pretty fast, we have a really efficient car. We have made lots of aerodynamic improvements compared to the last model and we’re also able to generate much more energy from the sun. We can generate 1.5 Kilowatt hours which is the same as our usage, meaning we could drive non-stop in the sun at around 70 km/h.
How much work was there for the team in the lead up to the challenge?
A lot of work! Not just on the car but we are constantly working on improving the strategy. We want the battery to be empty when we finish so it’s very similar to F1 in the way we plan each stage. We use NXP technology to constantly send data between Stella and the support car so we can adapt our strategy in real time.
What kind of support have you received from NXP for the World Solar Challenge?
We’ve received great support from NXP. They supplied the technology for Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology and many of the controllers in the car are based on NXP chips. NXP is also helping us take Stella across the world to show the potential of our technology. Soon we’ll be in China showing people the possibilities of solar powered car, which is a fantastic opportunity.
So when will we see Stella type solar cars with ordinary consumers behind the wheel?
I think we’re ready but people need to adapt their attitudes and learn that we don’t need petroleum anymore and we don’t need as much power – Stella only uses as much as a dryer, which is crazy.
People are very used to the concept of a car, engine in the front, trunk in the back etc. but a car like Stella looks very different and people will have to get used to these concepts.
Next time we get under the hood and have a look at what technology makes Stella Lux tick. Follow the team’s progress here