On Stella Vita’s first full day out on the public road, team manager Kjell Revenberg found some time for a phone call during a charging pause. The convoy is on its way to the town of Preignac, south of Bordeaux, and the Teslas need to be plugged in for fifty minutes. It’s cloudy, and since Stella Vita wasn’t fully charged at the start of the journey, the vehicle now gets some time to recharge. The solar panels of this Self-sustaining House on Wheels (SHOW) will remain folded today.
Stella Vita’s energy was partly used for test trials. “A new version of an engine component that we were dissatisfied with arrived the day before we left Eindhoven. We took our time to install it when we were in Paris. We had time to do so because our appointment with the École Polytechnique had been cancelled.” Through its own network, STE was able to test Stella Vita on a closed circuit, and it was only after everything felt safe enough that the team decided to send the vehicle out onto the public road. Small distances at first, but when Stella Vita left on Tuesday morning, it had 280 kilometers to go.
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Stella Vita got to fold out its solar panels in front of the Dutch embassy residence in Paris (see main photo). The presentation was attended by a delegation from the Paris university because they didn’t want to miss out on a meeting with STE after all. What made the presentation especially fun, were the meetings that took place at the embassy afterwards, Revenberg says. “I need to take a close look at my LinkedIn invitations when I get home, I’m too busy for that now.”
STE found driving in a convoy not particularly difficult. Revenberg: “You want to move as one fluid object, but you also need to take other traffic into account. That has gone rather well so far.” Each vehicle accompanying Stella Vita is tasked with a specific duty. The team manager and his co-driver scout five minutes ahead of Stella Vita in a Tesla and communicate with the two cars that drive in front and behind. “We use a walkie-talkie to communicate information about hazardous situations on the highway and road narrowings that we come across.” The convoy drives at a speed of 85 kilometers per hour. Not to stand out, but because this seems to maximize the vehicle’s range and energy efficiency.
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Stella Vita got a beautiful spot at Forever Young, an art festival that takes place in Le Mans, known for its 24-hour car race. The solar car only drove the distance from the camping to the festival autonomously. Final preparations for Tuesday’s big journey took place onÎle de Ré, an islandoff the west coast of France. The trailer is allowed to travel along as a fallback option.
From Preignac, STE will go to Bordeaux for a few days, followed by a full program. The atmosphere within the team has been excellent from day one, Revenberg says. “Each evening, we reflect on the day. We want to improve the things that went wrong, such as the time we had to go back twice to pick something up. That’s the result of inaccurate preparations, which is preventable. We continue to learn from this project. And we also look at all the things that went right, which is a lot. One of the things we are satisfied with today, for example, is driving in a convoy.”
You can find more photos on Flickr.