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The first off-road solar SUV in history just traversed Morocco using purely solar energy

Students at Eindhoven University of Technology created the Stella Terra, which finished its journey without needing to be recharged

The demand for zero-emission vehicles is growing, but operating an electric vehicle in areas with inadequate charging infrastructure is nearly hard. Stella Terra might make a difference. The khaki-green SUV can travel great distances on solar power alone. Because solar panels on its sloping roof are used to charge its electric battery. “The world’s first off-road solar-powered vehicle” was created by a group of students at Eindhoven University of Technology (TUE). According to Thieme Bosman, the team’s events manager. It can be used to connect remote areas “where roads are less developed and energy grids are not as reliable” and help with deliveries and emergency relief.

Earlier this month, the crew tested the car in Morocco by travelling more than 1,000 kilometres (621 miles) between the northern coast of the country and the southern Sahara Desert.

Tested In Morocco

Bosman states that the automobile was tested “on every type of surface that a car like this could encounter.” “Morocco has a huge variety of landscapes and different surfaces in quite a short distance,” he continues. The road-legal vehicle can reach a maximum speed of 145 km/h (90 miles per hour). Its battery range on a sunny day is around 550 kilometres (342 miles) off-road and approximately 710 kilometres (441 miles) on roads. The team calculates that the range may be reduced by 50 kilometres under overcast conditions. Bosman reported that the car performed one-third better on the journey than anticipated. Its lightweight construction reduced the likelihood of it being stuck in rough terrain.

A Solar SUV

Since electric SUVs are heavier than regular electric cars, they need larger, more powerful batteries to run. We truly start from fresh and develop everything ourselves. Which is how the SUV market today innovates on the earlier models, according to Bosman. Reducing the weight of the vehicle was crucial. The group of 22 students concentrated on optimising each component for maximum efficiency. Stella Terra weighs around 25% less than the typical mid-sized SUV, at approximately 2,645 pounds (1,200 kilogrammes). According to Stella Terra technical manager Bob van Ginkel, the aerodynamic design also lowers drag and uses “lightweight and robust” composite materials to save weight.

Van Ginkel continues, “We can have a much smaller battery because we are charging while driving. Which is one of the benefits of the solar panels on top.” Drivers of solar-powered SUVs are free to go wherever they like. Because these vehicles can travel off-road and don’t require charging stations.

Mountain to Desert

The crew went to Morocco to test the SUV on a variety of off-road terrains after revealing a prototype model in September. The team left Tangier and travelled across the rocky Rif mountain region. Stella Terra had its first off-road difficulty due to the steep ascents and descents. The team tested the vehicle on the mountain routes of Midelt, one of Morocco’s highest towns, as they travelled south through Fes. They then concluded their journey in the Sahara Desert, where they put Stella Terra to the test on looser, sandy tracks.

The steering system malfunctioned early in the trip, but they managed to locate replacement parts and had the car fixed in a nearby shop. The enormous earthquake that struck Morocco in early September had no effect on the journey, but due to the devastation it caused, the Stella Terra crew chose to work with The Red Cross on a crowdfunding drive to aid those affected.

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