Solar Team Eindhoven from the Netherlands spent over a year developing their family car, which features photovoltaic solar panels on both the roof and rear, according to Dezeen. The latter are flipped up to optimize solar absorption and generate energy while the car is not in use.
Stella produces double the amount of energy that it needs to run, which allows the vehicle to contribute power to the national grid.
A biennial race across roughly 1,877 miles of Australian outback, the WCS has historically attracted solar-powered vehicles that aim for speed above all.
This year, however, in an effort to encourage a greater emphasis on practical vehicles that can be scaled up for commercial distribution, the competition organizers added the cruiser category.
While still held to the same standard as other categories, including energy efficiency, features, styling, and aesthetics, vehicles in this category had to demonstrate superior comfort and practicality as well.
And Stella performed better than the other 39 teams with an average speed of 42mph, a top speed of 75mph, and an average of three people on board throughout the journey from Darwin to Adelaide.
“I congratulate Team Eindhoven on their innovation, practical design and foresight, to think outside the square and add the extra seats,” said World Solar Challenge director Chris Selwood.
“‘Stella’ is a wonderful solar car in a field of exceptional cars and teams. I look forward to 2015 and the prospect of more cruisers as we work toward the world’s most efficient electric car.”
While this competition has formerly neglected every day pragmatism for exceedingly high-tech vehicles that the average family could never use, this year’s win signals a hopeful shift toward innovations that actually benefit humanity. That was the point, after all, when Denmark’s Hans Tholstrup first conceived the competition in the 1980s.
“The design of the car of the future has to meet the needs of modern consumers,” the team said when the car was unveiled earlier this year. “The car must be capable of transporting a family from the Netherlands to France in one day, it needs to be suitable for the daily commute to work, and it needs to achieve all this in comfort.”
Solar Team Eindhoven narrowly beat Japan’s Tokai University, which won the WSC in both 2009 and 2011, and it is also the only car that competed in this year’s challenge that actually has a license plate.