Stella Terra, the world's first off-road solar-powered car, has completed its first major trip by travelling 1,000km and reaching the Sahara desert, The Guardian has reported.

The student team from Eindhoven Universit behind this project hopes that the successful completion of the journey inspires car makers to make more charging-infrastructure independent vehicles in the future.

The Solar Team at Eindhoven in the Netherlands is no stranger to building solar-powered vehicles. Previously, it was reported how their exploits and successes at building a solar-powered campervan took a similar 2,000km road trip in 2021.

The team typically consists of 21- to 25-year-olds who take a year off from their studies to build a highly innovative solar-powered car. For this year's edition, the team decided to make an off-road vehicle without conventional charging infrastructure.  

Stella Terra, the offroad solar 4X4

Electric 4X4s aren't new in the car industry any more. Multiple companies are building them at commercial scales. Compared to other electric vehicles, electric 4X4s need larger batteries to power them, increasing their weight.

Solar Team Eindhoven took this up as a challenge and worked to design a 4X4 that is 25% lighter than an average 4X4. The vehicle's lower weight would mean that the battery needs less work to drive the car and can be smaller. Since the battery could be charged on the go, the team could install a smaller one, reducing the vehicle's weight.

The design process resulted in Stella Terra, a 4X4 weighing 1,200kg with a range of 630km on a sunny day. The student team designed the vehicle and some components from scratch. Since it is an off-road vehicle and the Netherlands did not offer a lot of variety in terms of landscapes, the team decided to take the car to Morocco for extensive testing. 

The trip to Sahara

The vehicles' off-road capabilities were tested throughout the journey as the two-seater vehicle travelled through the rugged Rif mountain range, featuring some of the steepest ascents and descents. On the mountainous trail, Stella Terra visited one of the highest towns of Morocco before making its way to the harsh and sandy tracks of the Sahara desert. 

The team faced a few initial hiccups since the steering broke early, but it could be fixed with locally available parts. Since the vehicle could take its passengers to remote locations, the team also ensured that the car's seats could flatten to make a comfortable bed, and the solar panels could generate sufficient energy to help cook a meal, charge a phone, and not just drive the car.

The converter built for the solar panels was 97% efficient in turning absorbed light into electrical energy. This led to a boost in performance, and Stella Terra was found to be a third more efficient than the building team was planning for.

Solar Team Eindhoven's efforts at building its cars are always years ahead of the car maker market, and the team is hopeful that its recent success will encourage legacy car makers to make more environment-friendly and charging independent vehicles in the future.