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Can a road trip change the world?
A team of 22 Dutch university students is attempting to find out. The students were due to complete a 1,800 mile road trip between Eindhoven, in the Netherlands, and Tarifa, Spain on Friday in a solar-powered van that they designed themselves, The Guardian reported. But their end goal is more than a city. They want to speed the transition to greater sustainability.
“To accelerate this transition we are going to inspire as many people in Europe as possible for the sustainable future during our journey,” student team manager Kjell Revenberg said in a press release.
The students all come from the Eindhoven University of Technology and refer to themselves as Solar Team Eindhoven, according to their website. Their invention is a mobile home/ van called Stella Vita.
“Stella Vita generates energy through its solar panels on the roof and uses this energy for both driving and living,” the student inventors explained. “Stella Vita generates enough solar energy to drive, shower, watch TV, charge your laptop and make coffee. You are completely self-sustaining and independent. Hereby, you are free to go wherever you want, without harming the environment.”
The design also allows drivers and passengers to track the energy used for cooking, showering or watching TV, The AP explained.
The students say their invention is the world’s first solar-powered mobile home. It is designed for two people, according to The Guardian, and has a kitchen, seating area, bed, shower and toilet. On sunny days, it can travel up to 450 miles in 24 hours and reach a speed of 75 miles per hour. It also has a 60 kilowatt-hour battery that allows it to travel 373 miles at night, The AP reported. It can also drive in gray weather.
“On a cloudy day the vehicle can still produce 60-70% of the energy,” the students’ team coordinator Dr. Carlo van der Weijer told The Guardian. “And even if there is no sun at all, you still have an efficient, normal electric car that you can charge from a charging port.”
The students set out on their trial roadtrip September 19. However, it got off to a bumpy start when drivetrain problems meant it had to be carried by trailer from Eindhoven to Brussels to Paris, The AP reported. But the trip is running smoothly now, and students told The Guardian that their invention was popular on Spanish roads.
The students also hope to inspire automakers to follow their example.
“The technology is there, we just have to change the way we think,” 20-year-old student team member Tijn ter Horst told The Guardian. “If 22 students can design and build a vehicle like this in one year, then I’m sure companies could as well.”