Startups & Tech

Eindhoven Business Briefing: Solar Team Eindhoven perfects first solar family sedan

Eindhoven is emerging as THE high-tech innovation center in Europe, yet no one has heard of it.

We want to change that because you might want to come here to invest, to join a startup or to attend university. We’re even creating an effort – Tech Sister Cities – to connect talent to early stage investors in the United States, especially in the Midwest and South.

SOLAR TEAM EINDHOVEN WORKSHOP AT TU/e

Why?

There’s so much going on – so much innovation – at our headquarters city that our media startup can’t cope. So we decided to create a special semi-regular feature, the Eindhoven Business Briefing.

What’s going on this week?

You know how Stanford University supplies much of the ideas and talent for The Valley? Well, that’s Technical University Eindhoven’s role in our local ecosystem. During the last few weeks, we’ve taken our investors and friends to the campus so they could size up the school either for investment or for their kids’ college careers.

• If you think about all the buzz Elon Musk and Tesla generate, the obvious next question is, “Why aren’t there pure-play solar cars rather than cars with batteries that require recharging on the grid?”

We got our answer at Solar Team Eindhoven.

A team of TU/e students are preparing to defend STE’s first-place 2015 finish in the biennial Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, with the 2017 race scheduled for October in Australia.

STE has built a solar-only vehicle that can survive a 3,000-kilometer test from Darwin on the north to Adelaide on the south. Teams are allowed one charge at the start. That’s it.

The new car, dubbed Stella Vie, is touted as the first solar-powered family car and seats five.

STE will join 95 teams from schools such as MIT, the University of Michigan, Stanford and Cambridge as well as teams representing countries doing the most advanced research such as Australia and South Korea.

With Bert-Jan Woertman, TU/e commercial director, we dropped in on STE recently and chatted with team manager Wout Gubbels, a 23-year-old engineering student, about their new car, the first solar family sedan. If your family likes to strap on cooling vests as they drive cross a continent.

The World Solar Challenge has three classes.

“Our class (Cruiser Class) is more like the future of mobility than a race. For us, it’s efficiency combined with practicality,” Gubbels said. Part of the score is for practicality, such as how easy it is to get in and out of the car. And yes, the rules state that the car must carry actual passengers, Gubbels said. For them to survive temperatures topping 40 degrees Centigrade (104 Fahrenheit) and no air conditioning (too heavy), the passengers have to wear cooling vests, he said.

“It’s not just about speed, it’s about comfort,” Woertman said. “That’s what makes this class so challenging.”

Everyone from Dutch media to Inhabitat has covered the team. And the technology is amazing. The car can go about 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) on a sunny summer day, reaching speeds of up to 130 kph. The car is somewhat autonomous, with tech to locate the best spot for recharging and to route the most efficient routes.

Several STE alumni have banded together to form Lightyear One, an effort to build the first solar luxury car. More as we see proof-of-concept.

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