Running on the Sun
Most cars are powered by gasoline or electricity. But a group of students in the Netherlands designed a car that’s powered by the Sun’s energy.
The solar-powered car, called the Stella Terra, recently completed a 620-mile (1,000-kilometer) test drive across part of the Sahara desert in Morocco. Driving across a desert isn’t easy. There are no service stations, and the sandy landscape can be rough. But that was the point. The students, who are all in their 20s, wanted to see if the car could handle being off-road for such a long distance, getting its energy from only the Sun.
One thing the desert does have is sunshine. The Stella Terra has panels on its roof to capture solar energy, so all it needs is the Sun. But the car also has a lithium-ion battery that can provide power. The battery allows the car to drive shorter distances in places where the Sun shines less often.
But if a car can run on the power of the Sun, why aren’t more cars solar powered? Experts say solar panels are expensive. Rooftop solar panels that make electricity for homes and other buildings are very large. But car solar panels need to be much smaller, which means they need to be super efficient to make enough power. And that makes them costly.
Still, the students hope car companies will figure out how to make cheaper solar-powered cars so that people can afford to buy them.
“We hope this can be an inspiration to car manufacturers such as Land Rover and BMW to make [solar-powered cars] a more sustainable industry,” Bob van Ginkel, one of the students, told the Guardian.
Check out the slideshow to learn more about the Stella Terra’s adventures!