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In the daring automotive expedition that’s making eco-conscious gearheads everywhere sit up and take notice, a plucky gang of 22 students hailing from Eindhoven University of Technology has birthed something of a vehicular legend – the Stella Terra. This audacious creation stands as the very first off-road solar-powered chariot ever to grace the world’s rugged terrains. Picture a posse of ingenious young engineers and designers, calling themselves Solar Team Eindhoven, who’ve masterminded this solar sensation. With the verdant charm of a car design that channels Mother Nature’s palette, Stella Terra recently embarked on a 1,000-kilometer odyssey, conquering an epic journey from Northern Morocco to the heart of the Sahara.
This audacious escapade saw our intrepid crew traverse an eclectic spectrum of landscapes, from arid riverbeds to dense forests, hair-raising mountain trails, and, of course, the unforgiving loose sands of the desert. The verdict? It’s safe to say that Stella Terra has demonstrated exceptional prowess in conquering these rugged and sandy terrains with finesse.
Underpinning this awe-inspiring feat is Stella Terra’s ability to convert the sun’s benevolent rays into raw motoring energy. Adorning its roof, as well as much of its upper surface, are photovoltaic panels that act as a relentless power source. On a bright and sunny day, this solar marvel can zoom up to 145 kilometers per hour, thanks to a featherlight weight of just 1,200 kilograms and a range of a staggering 710 kilometers. Venture into the wild off-road yonder, and you’re still looking at a substantial 550 kilometers on average, contingent on the nature of the terrain.
The saga of Stella Terra began when the Solar Team Eindhoven unveiled it as a tantalizing concept vehicle in March 2023, only to reveal its flesh-and-metal incarnation come September of the same year. It was then christened as the world’s maiden off-road solar-powered automobile. But, as any enthusiast knows, the path from concept to reality is fraught with challenges. The Solar Team was faced with the Herculean task of crafting an off-road marvel, primed to thrive on solar sustenance, while enduring the harsh pummeling of the untamed outdoors. Wisse Bos, the maestro behind this engineering marvel and the team manager of Solar Team Eindhoven, reflects, ‘Stella Terra must withstand the harsh conditions of off-roading while remaining efficient and light enough to be powered by the sun. That is why we had to design almost everything for Stella Terra ourselves, from the suspension to the inverters for the solar panels.’
Before conquering the Sahara, a series of rigorous trials unfolded in the Netherlands, putting Stella Terra through its paces. Finally, it embarked on an epic odyssey that saw it traverse nearly a thousand kilometers, a quest that culminated in the heart of the Sahara. A breathtaking odyssey powered solely by the sun, and this green machine left everyone speechless. Wisse Bos elaborates, ‘It was an incredible trip with a positive ending. Stella Terra’s efficiency was hard to predict. That’s why we weren’t sure if we would make it on solar power. During the ride, Stella Terra turned out to use 30 percent less energy than expected. We were able to drive the entire trip on the sun’s energy and did not depend on charging stations.’ In the annals of automotive history, Stella Terra stands as a testament to human ingenuity and a bright, eco-friendly future for off-road adventures.
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