Meet Stella, the World's First Four-Passenger, Solar-Powered Car

1 - Meet Stella, the World's First Four-Passenger, Solar-Powered Car
2 - Size Perspective Next to a Bike
3 - Bubble-Type Front Windshield
4 - From the Rear, Stella Resembles a Tow Truck Ramp
5 - Riders Have to Bend Way, Way Down to Enter
6 - No Fancy Interior for Stella
7 - Tablet Instrumentation
8 - Car-to-Intersection Communication in Action
9 - Smart Traffic Signals
10 - Smart Traffic Boxes
11 - Off Into the World She Goes
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Meet Stella, the World's First Four-Passenger, Solar-Powered Car

by Chris Preimesberger

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Size Perspective Next to a Bike

Stella, the world's first solar-powered family car, was designed by students at the Eindhoven University of Technology in Holland. It is only about as high as a normal-size bicycle. The car can drive up to 500 miles on a single charge and is both CO2 neutral and energy positive, which produces twice as much energy as it uses. It complies with all electric car standards and is road ready.

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Bubble-Type Front Windshield

Stella's design looks counterintuitive because the aerodynamics appear to be on the rear of the vehicle, with its swept-down tail. "The two airflows from the top and bottom of the car come together nicely at the back, so there's no turbulence at the back of the car," student team design project manager Lex Hoefsloot told eWEEK. "We wanted this car to be no longer than a normal car, so you can park in a parking lot. If we would have put panels on the front, the car would have been about 6 meters long."

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From the Rear, Stella Resembles a Tow Truck Ramp

Thanks to the dozens of solar panels on its top side, Stella's swooped-down designed toward the rear makes the vehicle appear as though it were an auto ramp onto a tow truck. A Stella team member said that cloudy days definitely do affect the amount of energy the vehicle collects but that there is a relatively small differential from driving and collecting rays on a sunny day.

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Riders Have to Bend Way, Way Down to Enter

You'd better have a good back and be flexible enough to go way low to sit inside Stella. Some random notes: Stella has no air conditioning, and it must be traveling at 35 mph to 40 mph to get airflow moving inside. The windows do not retract, so it can get hot and stuffy pretty quickly—especially with four people inside. Stella also grinds a lot in first gear and in reverse; otherwise, she's as quiet as a normal electric car.

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No Fancy Interior for Stella

Like most prototypes, Stella isn't dressed up for show time; the vehicle is very bare bones in construction and adornment. Instruments are on the steering wheel, and a couple of specially programmed tablet PCs handle the vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-X traffic communications with traffic signals, other cars, pedestrians and emergency vehicles.

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Tablet Instrumentation

A tablet on the front passenger's side uses live video to enable the navigator and driver to see what's happening up ahead at an intersection or at a blind turn. When the entire new ecosystem is in place sometime in the future, all intersections will have special chips in them to signal cars like Stella ahead of time as to stoplight status, the presence of an emergency vehicle and other notifications.

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Car-to-Intersection Communication in Action

Stella uses the NXP car-to-car communication IT to demonstrate how cars can be operated more safely, maximize their mileage and enhance their efficiency through the collection of real-time traffic data. Additionally, Stella uses NXP chipsets in car-to-car communication, enabling Stella to communicate with other cars. For example, the system here is warning the driver and navigator about the presence of an ambulance up ahead.

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Smart Traffic Signals

In this new-generation traffic scheme, every intersection with one of these signals—or with a stop sign—would house one of the V2V and V2X chips that would communication with one—or hundreds of vehicles—all at the same time. Many traffic signals already have sensors in them; adding another chip to the circuits would not be a difficult task, NXP officials said.

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Smart Traffic Boxes

These traffic-control boxes, commonplace in cities and towns across the world, will house the new IT that will make driving safer and more efficient for coming generations of drivers. Eventually, the Internet of things will take over much of the control that will need to be on the ground today.

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Off Into the World She Goes

Stella heads off down Commonwealth Avenue in San Francisco, down the street from the Netherlands Consul's home, where the media event took place Sept. 22. The project, still only in its infancy, was led by Netherlands' NXP Semiconductors (formerly Philips Semiconductors), which built the chipsets. Intel, Delphi, Econolite, IBM, UC Davis and Secunet, among others, also played major roles in the international project.

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