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Dutch Team Unveils Solar-powered Car for Daily Transportation

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【Summary】While the solar-powered car can’t drive around the city autonomously, it can communicate with its environment and other vessels via V2X technology. During operation, the robust platform also provides real-time feedback about driving efficiency rates. If the driver is accelerating too fast or breaking too abruptly, the system will flash a red light to notify the individual.

Michael Cheng    Jul 10, 2017 4:22 PM PT
Dutch Team Unveils Solar-powered Car for Daily Transportation

For pioneers of sustainable transportation, the electrification of cars is just the beginning. The highly coveted solar-powered vehicle is the ultimate goal for complete, zero-emissions transportation. At the moment, solar technology is not mature enough to power cars efficiently. However, this gap in development isn't stopping engineers from attempting to commercialize solar-powered cars.

A group that is doing just that is a team of Dutch students from Eindhoven University of Technology. The creators unveiled a very unique solar-powered car prototype that is designed for public use. Called Stella Vie, the group plans to test the vehicle at a race event in Australia under the Cruiser Class category.

Long Range, Compact

The Stella Vie is the third iteration of the model, boasting significant upgrades from the first two releases. Not suffering from range issues, the unit can travel up to 620 miles per charge and reach top speeds of 80 mph. Unlike other solar-powered cars designed for racing, this one is capable of holding up to five passengers. It has conventional car lights and the panels are extremely compact, without any loose wiring.

Instead of going with a wide design, the unit is slim and long to accommodate space for the panels. To avoid wasting energy, the car's body is optimized aerodynamically to take on strong winds. The Stella Vie is not equipped with any self-driving hardware or software. Furthermore, the team did not clarify whether it plans to add this feature in the next version of the vehicle.

"We have a beautifully curved roof with 5 m² of solar cells. This is 1 m² less than Stella and Stella Lux," said the team in a recent blog post. "One of the most important factors is the aerodynamics of the car. We have improved the aerodynamic shape with 9 percent compared to Stella Lux, and even 20 percent if you would compare it to Stella."

Technology-first Vehicle

While the solar-powered car can't drive around the city autonomously, it can communicate with its environment and other vessels via V2X technology. The vehicle relies on V2X to power a wide range of smart features. To make trips more efficient, the built-in system allows drivers to enter their destination into the dashboard, where it will provide the most direct route to the location.

"While driving Stella Vie uses the latest V2X technology to warn the driver to anticipate upcoming traffic events, which allows for safer and more efficient driving," said the team.

Interestingly, the platform also provides parking assistance to ensure solar charging is maximized. Factors the system takes into consideration to determine the best parking spot for the car includes the following: weather, sun exposure, height and availability. Based on these data points, the platform will likely pick the hottest spot in the parking lot for the driver.

During operation, the robust platform also provides real-time feedback about driving efficiency rates. If the driver is accelerating too fast or breaking too abruptly, the system will flash a red light to notify the individual. 

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