Solar cars TU Eindhoven excel at European Solar Challenge

The iLumen European Solar Challenge took place from Friday the 18th to Sunday the 20th of September on the Circuit Zolder racing track in Belgium. In the only 24-hour endurance race for Solar Cars, Stella Era and Stella Vie both aimed at the European title in the Cruiser Class. Not only is this challenge a great way to test the skills of the old teams, it was also an incredible opportunity to introduce the new team members to the intricacies of the trade.

After both cars passed Scrutineering on Thursday, the cars started Dynamic Parcour on Friday where Vie managed to beat Era. After this test, the biggest challenge started on Saturday at 13:00 where the cars lined up on the grid for the 24-hour race. The drivers all lined up in front of the solar cars for the Le Mans-style start. After the flag went down the drivers ran across the track and climbed into the solar cars.

Start of ESC2020

The Le Mans-style start at circuit Zolder for the European Solar Challenge 2020 – Photo by Bart van Overbeeke

We are proud to say Stella Vie drove off in first place, while Stella Era sped off in a respectable fourth place. Since the track was all clear in front of Stella Vie, it was decided to start off with a couple of hot laps without passengers. During these hot laps Stella Vie reached a top speed of 109 km/h on the straights. In the first couple of laps Stella Vie set a great fastest lap time that ended up being the third best lap-time of Vehicles from all classes. After this quick stint, Stella Vie also picked up two passengers and started cruising at a lower, more energy efficient speed. 

At the early stage of the race, Vie managed to build up a sizable margin on Era. However, Vie started to get some reliability issues and at night on Sunday Vie had to stop for four hours to change a component. During this stop, our Engineers did everything they could to get Vie driving as soon as possible, but during this time Era managed to overtake Vie in lap-count.

Maintenance on Vie

An engineer of the new team (Kevin van den Boom) working on Stella Vie – Photo by Bart van Overbeeke

When the sun came up both cars were up and running again. Vie had quite a challenge ahead of herself to catch up with Era who had been driving laps around the track for the entire time Vie was off the track. While in the last part of the race Vie started overtaking Era again, Era had gained such a large margin that it was impossible for Vie to make the race interesting again.

The Stella's crossing the finish line

Stella Vie (front) and Stella Era (back) after passing the finish line – Photo by Bart van Overbeeke

After completing 229 laps of racing at Circuit Zolder, Stella Era managed to cross the line as winner of the iLumen European Solar challenge in the Cruiser Class and Stella Vie obtained second place with 161 laps driven. After the race, Stella Era provided the grid with some Solar-powered snacks, after which the award ceremony started. The victory was celebrated with a spray of champagne after receiving the trophy.

Award ceremony ESC2020

The award ceremony – Photo by Bart van Overbeeke

In the Challenger Class, Agoria Solar Team’s Bluepoint obtained an impressive victory, with Solar Team Twente’s Red E coming in at second place and Top Dutch Solar Racing’s Green Lightning rounded up the podium at 3rd place. All results can be found here. We would like to thank all other teams for their enthusiasm and sportsmanship during the European Solar Challenge. Also, enormous gratitude goes out to the competition management, sponsors and all other parties involved for organizing this event.

Stella's in the pitlane after the race

The entire team in the pit lane after both cars have finished – Photo by Bart van Overbeeke

Self-driving charging station demonstrated today on the TU/e campus

Eindhoven – Today, the students of Solar Team Eindhoven have demonstrated the innovative features of the World Champion solar car Stella Era for the first time. After proving her efficiency at the World Solar Challenge in Australia, the team now demonstrates the energy sharing features that make her a ‘charging station on wheels’.

At the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge 2019 in Australia, Stella Era showed that she has a range of 1200 km, even in windy conditions. This range is rarely fully utilized in the Netherlands, where the average driving distance per day is 56 km. That is why Stella Era can share her energy with other electric vehicles. The technology that allows Stella Era to share her energy directly with another electric vehicle was demonstrated today in collaboration with Amber Mobility. This makes Stella Era a charging station on wheels.

Stella Era directly charges an Amber electric car. Photo by Bart van Overbeeke

In contrast to Australia, the sun is not always shining in the Netherlands. That is why Stella Era can autonomously, without a driver, chase the sun. Eight radars developed by NXP are located on every side of the car, which allows her to detect other objects and make a 360 degrees image of her surroundings. She has no dead corner.

A power socket allows you to make a cup of coffe on the go. Photo by Bart van Overbeeke

Also, the 230V power socket was demonstrated today in a camping trip setting. Stella Era’s energy can be used for all electric appliances. Stella Era is a safe and comfortable family car that can seat up to four people.

This week, a new team of 20 students of the Eindhoven University of Technology started their adventure to build a solar-powered vehicle. Their mission is to take the next step in developing sustainable solutions to societal challenges. Solar Team Eindhoven is excited to create a new solar-powered vehicle that will be a contribution to a more sustainable world!

Solar Team Eindhoven won the Cruiser Class of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in October 2019 for the fourth consecutive time. The solar car received the highest score on both the efficiency over the 3000 km through Australia and the practicality judgment.

20 students of the Eindhoven University of Technology have started this week as the new Solar Team Eindhoven. Photo by Bart van Overbeeke

Solar car TU Eindhoven wins World Solar Challenge for the fourth time in a row

Adelaide, October 20, 2019 – Solar Team Eindhoven from the Eindhoven University of Technology has won the first prize in the Cruiser Class of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge (BWSC) for the fourth time in a row. We completed the more than 3,000-kilometer drive from Darwin to Adelaide with the highest efficiency score of all teams. Also on the assessment of the solar car by a professional jury, yesterday, we scored 93.1 points.

This makes us the consecutive winner of all editions of the Cruiser Class since it was founded in 2013. The class was introduced in 2013 to bridge the gap between the well-known World Solar Challenge and the use of cars in daily life. The new class was meant to close that gap and the innovations from the World Solar Challenge really find their way into the automotive sector. In the Cruiser Class not necessarily the fastest car wins, but the one that excels in efficiency, comfort, design and innovations.

Highest score for efficiency and innovation

We achieved a total score of 103.9 points, of which 111.7 points for efficiency and 93.1 for comfort and innovations. After we crossed the finish line on Friday at 11.30 a.m. (local time), we presented the practical utility, comfort and technical innovations on Saturday to a jury among which were Tesla and Lightyear. The practicality is particularly important because it weighs equally heavy as the efficiency score. With unique features such as autonomously chasing the sun and the sharing of solar energy with other electric cars, Solar Team Eindhoven with their four-person solar car, Stella Era, achieved great success.

Challenges

The team was extra euphoric because we had serious setbacks. For example, Stella Era arrived with a damaged solar panel in Darwin and we had problems with the electrical system two weeks before the start, the cause of which was initially unknown. Carijn Mulder, team manager, says: “Due to the setbacks in the preparation, we missed a lot of test days, so we were unsure of what awaited us during the Challenge.”

Moreover, the strong headwind on the longest stage of 1200 kilometers was quite a challenge. The team had to bridge that distance on a single battery charge. Solar Team Eindhoven was one of the two teams that completed this stage on time and they managed to avoid a time penalty.

Fourth victory

In her victory speech during the Award Ceremony, Carijn proudly spoke about the challenges the team has overcome. “It was certainly not obvious that we could become world champions for the fourth time. All challenges have kept the team sharp during the preparations and the race until the last moment. We are all very proud of our high scores and the victory ”.

The students drove at an average speed of almost 80 km/h and charged an additional 71.24 kWh over the entire distance via a charging station. For comparison: an ordinary electric car, without solar panels, has to charge about ten times as much energy.

Practicality Judging: The Challenge isn’t over yet!

Still buzzing from yesterday’s finish, we started the very last part of our Bridgestone World Solar Challenge journey this morning. Because even though we had crossed the finish line, the Challenge wasn’t over yet for the cruiser teams.

Last year, we worked on building a car that is efficient and practical. We had already proven our efficiency during the 6-day drive from Darwin to Adelaide. Today, we had the opportunity to show the practicality of Stella Era during a 3-minute pitch in front of a jury panel, after which they were invited to take a seat and experience the comfort themselves.

Our team was the first on stage, followed by Sunswift and IVE Engineering accordingly. Team members Marije and Mick prepared a strong pitch on our car’s concept, explaining how Stella Era can get the maximum out of the Sun by using her autonomous functions. By autonomously driving towards the sunniest parking spots, Era can maximize the energy gain of her solar array. With all the energy she gains, she can provide other EV’s with solar energy just by plugging them into Era’s charging socket.

They also explained how Stella Era can power your daily life. You can watch Netflix on the interactive touchscreen… on solar energy, listen to sing-alongs through the bluetooth audio system…  on solar energy, work on that important assignment through the unlimited wifi hotspot… on solar energy. And during the rest of your day, your devices will be charged through wireless charging, usb-ports, or even a portable power bank… on solar energy. She gets the maximum out of the Sun!

After the pitch, the 10 members of the jury were invited into the car where they could experience the comfort of Stella Era and look at all the features we have been working so passionately on for the past year. We hoped we have convinced the jury of Stella Era’s comfort but we won’t know the score until tomorrow. We also enjoyed the pitches of the other teams, it seemed like all teams were well prepared and it was inspiring to see how other teams designed their practicality.

In the afternoon, we participated in the Smart Grid Pitch competition. This was not a compulsory part of the Challenge and it didn’t have anything to do with our practicality score, but it was a nice platform to share our ideas on smart grids. Mick and Coen presented a pitch on Stella Era, explaining why solar cars can be a part of the future of the electricity grid. Stella Era doesn’t necessarily make the current grid smarter, but she can serve as a smart grid herself, autonomously seeking the Sun and providing this clean energy to other EV’s.

Tomorrow, the award ceremony will take place and we will finally hear our final score. This score will determine who has become World Champion of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge 2019! We are very excited for tomorrow, hopefully Solar Team Eindhoven can take home the trophy again remain World Champion of the Cruiser Class. Tonight, we are taking some time off the celebrate the real end of our challenge. Let’s celebrate the end of an amazing week, and moreover a wonderful, educational and challenging year.

Solar Team Eindhoven is close to fourth win at Bridgestone World Solar Challenge

Adelaide, Friday, October 18 – The Stella Era solar car from Eindhoven University of Technology has achieved the highest efficiency score of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge with 112 points. The students are well on their way to becoming the world champion for the fourth time in the passenger car class. The team has a considerable lead but can only officially take the world title home after the jury assessment on Saturday.

Difficult circumstances

In six days the only Dutch team in the Cruiser Class drove the distance of more than 3000 kilometers from North to South Australia. Along the way, the strong wind in particular was a major challenge, causing the team from Twente to stop their race in the Challenger class. The four-person solar car Stella Era was unable to drive with full occupancy, which meant that it received strong competition from the other solar cars in the Cruiser Class.

In contrast to previous editions, the teams were only allowed to charge their solar car twice at a normal charging station, producing the longest stage on a single battery charge of up to 1200 kilometers. As only one of the two solar cars, the team arrived at the checkpoint on time. The processed score was determined by the number of people-kilometers (kilometers traveled multiplied by the number of passengers carried) and the amount of energy used.

The students from Eindhoven have scored 112 points, twice as many points as the number two.

Stella Era bij finish World Solar Challenge
Students from Solar Team Eindhoven celebrating in the Adelaide fountain

Waiting for the official results

Carijn Mulder, team manager: “It feels fantastic to cross the finish line in no time! I am extremely proud of the team and our car, which we have worked very hard on for a year and a half. Due to quite a few setbacks, it was exciting in the last few weeks that we could finish the long stages at all. The team has been focused to the last minute and will also show what Stella Era has to offer during the jury assessment on Saturday. “

After the finish the teams are judged on the comfort and innovations of their solar car. “Stella Era was not only built for the World Solar Challenge, but mainly with the aim of developing a car that really gets the most out of the sun. We are confident that Stella Era, as a self-driving charging station, will also achieve a good score here.” Carijn said.

This Sunday at 12 A.M. (CET), the team will hear whether they take the world title home for the fourth time. In any case, TU Eindhoven is already very proud of the team’s performance so far.

World Solar Challenge met Stella Era - dag 6
Stella Era cruising around Port Augusta

Day 5: Was Stella Era going to give up on the last day before finishing?

Last night we camped in Coober Pedy, where we were allowed to do external charging. During our usual after-dinner team meeting, we emphasized the importance of staying focused on these last two days. Because even though we were on a good strike, everything could still go wrong.

This morning, we started fresh with 4 passengers after a few hours of static charging in the morning Sun. The plan of the day was to drive to control stop Glendambo, then onto control stop Port Augusta and a few more kilometers after that to the overnight stop. At 8 o’clock we headed off to the first controls stop when, only 10 minutes later, Stella Era shut down. Last night’s warning proved itself right. Due to the many safety measures we have implemented in Stella Era, she will shut down when an error or warning is triggered. This morning she detected a few issues and we had to stop next to the road to fix the issue. It meant we’ve lost valuable time compared to our competitors Sunswift and IVE.

We had two control stops on the way. Firstly, Glendambo and a few hundred kilometers south control stop Port Augusta. We have been doing these control stops all week and we’re become quite skilled at it. Since we were next to the road in the beginning of the day, we were driving behind Sunswift, IVE Engineering Solar Car Team, Bochum Solar Car Team and University of Minnesota Solar Vehicle Project. During the day, we overtook Bochum and Minnesota. Just before we arrived in Port Augusta we managed to overtake IVE as well.

We ended our day of driving just south of Port Augusta, a few minutes after 5 pm. We were relieved that the problems of the morning did not persist during the day. We only have 200 kilometers left until we arrive at the finish in Adelaide. What a journey it has been! About 3000 kilometers in 6 days on solar energy.

Day 4: When our camp and car almost blew away

It is day 4 of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge and part 2 of our 1200 kilometer stage. Our destination of today was Coober Pedy, where we are allowed to charge externally.

The day we gave it our all

Today consisted of 2 stints. The first one was the 150 kilometers towards control stop Kulgera. From there it was only 400 km to Coober Pedy. Due to predicted bad weather (wind gusts up to 60 km/h) we drove our first stint with 1 person. After we had reached the control stop in Kulgera, we calculated that we had driven more efficiently than we thought and therefore we drove the last few hundred kilometers with 2 persons. Even though the strategy was determined last night, we were still very anxious to make it to Coober Pedy because it was not clear if we would run out of battery beforehand.

Fun fact: we have driven the whole day in the lead position and we have never been overtaken since Tennant Creek!

Withering weather conditions

Yesterday night during our team meeting, we suddenly got caught in a sandstorm. We all got up on our feet to protect Stella Era and secure our tents. We have never cleaned up our camp that quickly. Since the storm got very bad, we decided to put up an emergency night watch to make sure the camp was well protected.

Unfortunately, the strong winds caused the solar cars from Solar Team Twente and Sonnenwagen Aachen to be blown off the road. We feel devastated for these teams and we hope they may recover.

Current status

Of the 13 solar cars that started in the Cruiser Class, we are in top position. There’s two days to go in which we will drive the last 800 kilometers to Adelaide. We feel well prepared and tonight we will be charging our battery for the last ride home. Let’s get that Cruiser Cup and become fourth time World Champion!

Day 3: Halfway there!

Today was our third day of driving the road towards our final destination Adelaide. Only three nights and three days to go. We’re halfway there!

After charging Stella Era via the grid last night, she was full of energy and ready to start day 3. Just to be sure, we placed her in the Sun for some extra static charging this morning. We needed Stella Era to have enough energy for the upcoming stints, since bad weather was predicted: a very strong headwind. This also led to the decision of driving with 1 person today, saving enough energy for the drive of tomorrow.

We had gotten the information that, before reaching the first control stop of the day, we would have to cross a gravel road of 1 kilometer long. From testing days we learned that these gravel roads can be a real burden to our tires. We had already had multiple flat tires because of gravel roads and therefore we had to be cautious on that today. Having a flat tire would mean that we would have to stop to change the tire, resulting in time loss.

We sent our “technical” car ahead to wait for Stella Era at the end of the gravel road. So if she would have a flat tire, our technical crew would be ready to quickly fix it. Luckily, Stella Era survived the gravel road without issues so the technical crew could jump right back in the car again.

Ironically, one of our convoy cars did get a flat tire shortly after passing the gravel road. It was our camper, transporting our dear fans from the Eindhoven University of Technology, that was unlucky today. With help from our truck drivers, they could get back on the road quickly and they could continue their way to the first control stop: Barrow Creek.

At Barrow Creek we met all cruisers that had been in Tennant Creek as well that same morning, including Bochum Solar Car Team, Sunswift, IVE Engineering and Sun Shuttle. Afterwards, we continued onto our next control stop Alice Springs.

After Alice Springs, we could continue our drive until 5pm, the official stopping time of the BWSC. The drive went great. We even met some proud parents along the road, who had traveled Australia! Just before 5pm, we placed Stella Era on a spot next to the road and we built up our camp. We’re curious about tomorrow, we hope the wind odds will be in our favour.

Day 2: New challenges in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge

Day two of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge! We went from Daly Waters to Tennant Creek in a single stage which brought along many exciting moments. We have driven over a 1000 km so far and we’re over a third of the total distance of the BWSC.

After our first night in the Australian outback, we started our day with static charging and bacon&eggs. Since we were camping at a control stop where multiple other solar teams were camping, we didn’t want to risk any other team parking their solar cars on the best spot for static charging the next morning. Therefore, two team members got up at 3am to place Stella Era on the best spot, enabling her to get the maximum out of the Sun. Just before 8am, we moved Era to her designated control stop spot. Since Stella Era had already fulfilled 4 minutes of the mandatory 30 minute control stop, we had to wait 26 minutes before Era could leave and carry on to Tennant Creek. The control stop was already very crowded, with one other cruiser car (Violet from team Sunswift) and at least 6 challengers checking in and out.  Half of the team guarded our solar panel in order to prevent shadows from people passing by blocking the solar panel. Our account manager Pam even showed a heroic jump to block a guy coming too close to our panel. No one is getting in the way of our sunrays!

The drive towards Tennant Creek went good, we drove with 4 passengers. As expected, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and Era gained lots of solar energy. Our scout auto was driving behind a truck that was suddenly slowing down while driving uphill. He slowed down to a crawling pace and suddenly the image from yesterday flashed before our eyes. Was history going to repeat itself? Luckily we were able to get in contact with the truck driver and he sped up just in time. The last hurdle of this stint was the very particular timed traffic light: the light is red for many minutes and only green for 30 seconds. We sent one convoy car ahead to time the traffic light and subsequently our strategy team calculated the optimum speed for Era.

Just moments ago, we’ve arrived at Tennant Creek where we will be charging our battery via the grid for the first time since we left off at Darwin. We have driven (most of) our 1000 km trip with all four passengers. We are proud to have reached this first milestone of our 3000 km journey. During the next two days, we will be traveling to our next charging station at Coober Pedy; a 1200 km journey which will be a challenge of its own due to predicted bad weather conditions.

Stella Era off to a rough start at the World Solar Challenge

This morning, it was time to shine for Stella Era as she made her appearance at the start of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. The route of the first day from Darwin to Daly Waters did not exactly start off as planned for the team.

The first stage out of Darwin was expected to be one of the busier ones, as regular traffic mingled with convoys of solar cars. During the Dynamic Scrutineering last Saturday, Stella Era drove a hot lap in 2:28.78 which put her on the 20th place of the overall classification. Therefore, she started on the 20th position of the 41 participating solar cars today. However, a few minutes into the Challenge, the team encountered a rough patch of road that was hilly. One of the traffic lights jumped to red and Stella Era had to brake for other cars ahead of her. This meant she was just at the start of the hill. When the lights jumped to green, she drove away, but the hill proved to be too steep. To be sure, we continued with only our driver – leaving behind the 3 passengers – to decrease the weight of the vehicle. This turned out to be a good call, enabling Era to cruise up the hill and safely reach the first control stop.

Around 13:00 we arrived at our first control stop of the day: Katherine. Shortly after our arrival, Bochum Solar Car Team and ATN Solar Car arrived as well. The clear sky and bright Sun provided Stella Era with lots of solar energy during the static charging, after which she got back on the road again with new energy to give it her all. Currently, we are driving 2nd  on the road of the Cruiser Class. Sunswifts solar car Violet managed to stay ahead of us, but the location on the route does net yet say what the virtual score is, as the amount of person-kilometers are not yet taken into account.

The end of the day went very well. We arrived at the second control stop Daly Waters perfectly in time. At the control stop we found Sunswift with their cruiser car Violet, leaving behind ATN Solar Car Team with their car Priscilla and SolarCar-Team Hochschule Bochum whom we met at our first control stop. Besides, in the Challenger Class the Dutch are ruling. At 5 o’clock, we positioned Era on a nice spot to catch the last sunrays of the day and we set up our camp. Time to prepare for day 2!