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Surprising Science

What An Eco-Friendly Family Car Might Look Like In 2050

Debuting this week is Stella, the world’s first solar-powered car big enough to seat four people. It was created by a team of Dutch university students as their entry in the upcoming World Solar Challenge.

What’s the Latest Development?

For the next World Solar Challenge, scheduled for October 6-13 in Australia, students at the Netherlands’ Eindhoven University of Technology are submitting as their entry what they’re calling the world’s first solar-powered family car. Named “Stella,” it seats four people, contains intuitive driving features — such as a steering wheel that expands and contracts depending on the car’s speed — and even has a trunk. More importantly, the car’s solar cells “generate more electricity on average than the car uses and that means the surplus electricity can be returned to the power grid, thereby making the car ‘energy-positive.'”

What’s the Big Idea?

This year’s World Solar Challenge invites teams of university students from all over the world to participate in a 3,000-kilometer (1,864-mile) race across the Australian outback. Solar Team Eindhoven’s entry will compete in the Cruiser class, for which speed takes a back seat to usability and practicality. In addition, Stella and the team will visit Dutch high schools to help promote the study of science and engineering. The car will also be certified for official road use, which means it could be on (hopefully sunny) highways sooner rather than later.

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