Solar Team Eindhoven works towards first meters with ‘Stella X’

This week, Solar Team Eindhoven hopes to drive the first few meters with the fourth and newest edition of their solar powered family car, known as ‘Stella X’ for now. The TU/e student team will reveal the actual name, as well as the car itself, on the 18 Septemberplein in the center of Eindhoven on the 4th of July.

by
photo Bart van Overbeeke

It was a special moment for Solar Team Eindhoven (STE) on Monday, June 17. That afternoon, the car’s carbon body finally came ‘home’ after a manufacturing process of several months at Brainport Industries Campus in Eindhoven and a trip to the car painter. “It does feel like that a little bit,” says PR manager Marije Sesink with a smile. “But the BIC feels a bit like ‘home’ for some of our engineers as well, because they have spent so much time there, sometimes even at night.”

The car will be fitted with all its parts at the team’s facility in Momentum during the next few weeks. “Our electrical and computer science engineers, for whom the construction is about to begin, have everything they need here. Also, this building is easy to reach for committed alumni who would like to offer a helping hand. The workshop at the BIC was more suited for mechanical engineering, a very large and dusty space - not very convenient when you’re working with electrical components.”

Twelve hundred kilometers on one battery

One of the specific challenges for ‘Team 2019’ lies in the new rules from the World Solar Challenge, in which Eindhoven will participate for the fourth time next fall. The rules stipulate that participating cars in the Cruiser class may now recharge only twice between the start in Darwin and the finish in Adelaide. This means that the cars will have to cover a distance of about twelve hundred kilometers without stopping to recharge. Will the student team from Eindhoven manage that? “Yes, if everything goes according to plan. But for now, the car hasn’t driven a single meter,” Sesink says with a healthy dose of realism. “We hope to conduct the first drive and break tests in the coming week.”

“Of course, we have adapted our design and strategy to those rules. And our car was built with that in mind to a large extent, a close interplay between mass, space and weight,” Sesink continues. But there is also an interplay between those regulations imposed from above and the vision of the team - a team that doesn’t just want to build an energy-positive car, but that also wants to make optimal use of the surplus energy generated by the car, this year especially. A power bank on wheels, that’s how the team describes its new car.

How that power bank works exactly “will be revealed on July the 4th,” Sesink says with a mysterious look. The other new features with which ‘Stella X’ will have to surprise the audience will be kept strictly under wraps during the next few weeks. An exception is made for the partners who support the team and who are kept up to date regularly about the plans, all the specs, and the process.

Fluid planning

Sesink says that Solar Team Eindhoven has not run into any serious problems during that process so far. “You have to deal with minor setbacks, obviously, things don’t always turn out exactly as initially planned, and you have reach compromises together sometimes.” With a smile: “The planning becomes more fluid during the process, but we always resolve our problems, if only because we have to.”

And if only because the date of the car’s unveiling, July 4, is approaching rapidly. “We’re in such a rollercoaster now. Everyone lives and works hard for it.” The team will operate in two shifts in the coming weeks, and they will work arduously literally day and night to finish the car and to get it ready to drive.

Before the team travels to Australia in August, the car needs to go through a technical inspection by the Netherlands Vehicle Authority (RDW) first. “Alumni, amongst others, tell us that this inspection has gotten much stricter over the years. We also have a fair share of new features in our car, so we will see how that works out.”

Financing not quite secured

They will also have to see how the financing, which they haven’t quite secured yet at this moment, will work out. Sesink does not want to mention figures, “but we are still looking for partners.” She says that coming up with a budget is always a challenge anyway. “The car is a bit more expensive because of its many new features, we have a larger team, so we travel with more people. But we expect that everything and everyone will get to Australia this fall.” The first team members will get on the airplane in mid-August, the rest of the team will follow one week later.

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