Earlier this month, the 30th World Solar Challenge kicked off in Darwin, Australia, with 42 competitors vying for victory.
At the end of the 3,022-kilometer (1,880-mile) race from Darwin to Adelaide, one team emerged victorious in the highly contested Cruiser class.
Solar Team Eindhoven, from the Netherlands, placed first with its Stella Vie “family car,” racking up double the efficiency points awarded to the second-place finisher.
The Stella Vie solar car uses a unique Solar Navigator platform from Ericsson’s Connected Urban Transport.
The system compiles traffic and weather data plus other in-depth analytics to optimize routes for efficiency, according to EQ International.
Ericsson’s Solar Navigator platform was critical to the Dutch team’s success, Ericsson says, and helped garner 80 efficiency points through the race; the second place team managed just 38 efficiency points.
The software guides the driver to a parking spot where the car can capture the most solar energy, while “vehicle-to-everything” technology warns the driver of upcoming traffic scenarios or obstacle that may affect the route.
While the Stella Vie looks considerably different from today’s conventional family sedans, event organizers said all of the competing cars housed the expected features for luxury or family cars.
“These incredible solar cars have been designed with the commercial market in mind,” Event Director Chris Selwood, said.
“This is the future of solar-electric vehicles,” he added. “When your car is parked at home it can be charging and supplying energy back to the grid.”
The World Solar Challenge encompasses three classes: “Challenger,” “Cruiser,” and “Adventure.”
The Stella Vie’s “Cruiser” class win represents a car with two or more seats, heightened efficiency, and overall neat packaging.
“Challenger” cars focus on outright speed and “Adventure” cars aren’t actually competing; the class includes previously built cars running the challenge again, usually with new teams piloting them.
Although purely solar-powered cars are far from production-ready, some of the technology they embody shows promise.
Audi and Alta Devices recently showed off a translucent solar cell that can capture and store energy from glass roofs.
The solar cells would power vehicle accessories such as air conditioning, heated seats, but Audi believes one day they could also recharge an electric car’s battery pack.
[hat tip: Miguel Angel]