This little solar car just trekked 620 miles across the Sahara on a single charge

The agile two-seater Stella Terra solar car just finished a 620-mile off-roading adventure in Morocco and the Sahara, all on a single charge. The designers behind the project say it isn’t just about maximizing range and distance, but showing off the car’s lightweight, aerodynamic design and its ability to traverse tough terrain without any major drama or head rattling. Land Rover and BMW, take note.

The brainchild of students at the Eindhoven University of Technology, the funky-looking olive green Stella Terra won’t win any best-looking awards. The design is geared to push “the boundaries of technology,“ says team manager Wisse Bose. “The 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.”

So, what was the experience like riding inside? “The car was actually very comfortable in the off-road conditions as it is very light and does not get stuck,” says Bose. “We hope this can be an inspiration to car manufacturers such as Land Rover and BMW to make it a more sustainable industry.”

Credit: STE / Bart van Overbeeke

The road-legal solar car has a top speed of 145 kilometers per hour (about 90 mph), weighs 1,200 kilograms (2,645 pounds), and has a range of 710 kilometers (441 miles) on a sunny day. Off-road, the range averages about 550 kilometers (342 miles) depending on terrain. According to the team, the Stella’s solar panel converter was 97% efficient in turning sunlight absorbed by their PV cells into electrical charge, which was a third more efficient than originally thought, and leaves plenty of juice to charge up your phone and electric stove for campouts.

For days when there is no sun or over shorter distances, the car also comes with a rechargeable lithium (Li)-ion battery.

This passion project is just that, a nonprofit project that has relied on sponsors to develop the car, so total costs of what went into it haven’t yet been released. And of course, this is no small detail, especially in light of the ongoing dramas in solar car tech. Atlas Technologies, the firm behind the solar-powered Lightyear, announced its bankruptcy last year due to lack of orders on its €500,000 car. It has since reemerged with a $40,000 car that could travel 500 miles between charges.

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