Since 2001, the Dutch have dominated the World Solar Challenge. The University of Delft won the race for solar powered cars five times: A great feat. But all this was done with purpose built single-seaters that have less in common with a family car than Formula One. In 2013 however, a new chapter was started, when the brand-new Cruiser class was won by the University of Eindhoven with a four-seater passenger car. Can solar power really be the future of our mobility? And what part will reinforced plastics play? We went down to Eindhoven to find out.

Stella, the four-seater passenger car of Solar Team Eindhoven, did not just win the race. At the 8th annual Crunchies Awards in February 2015, Stella also received the Best Technology Achievement Award, beating nominees like Apple Pay, the Rosetta Mission's Comet Landing and the SpaceX Lateral Booster. The Crunchies are an industry award given out by a number of technology blogs since 2008.

The car was built for the Word Solar Challenge Cruiser class which was established in 2013 to encourage solar powered cars to be designed more like practical passenger cars instead of purposeful racers. In the Cruiser class, the cars must be designed to carry a minimum of two occupants. And they are judged on practicality, external energy use, the time taken to complete the course and the payload carried.

With an external energy input of just 64 kWh, Stella completed the 3022 km course in 40 hours and 14 min. What makes that extra impressive, is that the car carried three people on average. And still it was not much slower than the single-seater of the University of Delft that won the race overall in 33 hours.

This article appeared in the May/June issue of Reinforced Plastics.

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