Students Build World’s First Off-Road Solar-Powered SUV–and Drive it Across Morocco

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Students in The Netherlands have designed a solar-powered SUV that doubles as a small camper van to produce the ultimate concept car for off-grid adventure in sunny climes.

Driving it 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) across Morocco, the Stella Terra as it’s called showed a wide variety of advantages over existing electric SUVs.

“Morocco has a huge variety of landscapes and different surfaces in quite a short distance,” says Thieme Bosman, events manager for the TUE team. He told CNN the car was tested “on every type of surface that a car like this could encounter.”

The wide sloping roof has inbuilt solar panels that charge the electric battery while the car is driving. This allowed the creators, students from Eindhoven University of Technology (TUE), to shave off the weight of the battery packs, creating a lighter car that used less electricity to power.

By shaving off weight wherever possible and crafting the Stella Terra’s body panels to have an aerodynamic shape, the car is just 2,645 pounds (1,200 kilograms), about 25% less than similar electric SUVs.

It’s also added up to a longer range of around 710 kilometers (441 miles) on roads, and around 550 kilometers (342 miles) off-road, plus or minus 50 for cloudy or sunny weather, plus or minus a bit more because car makers are notoriously untrustworthy when reporting range.

The team drove it from Tangier through the Rif Mountains, down to Fes and up the high mountain tracks near Midelt, Morocco’s highest town, and back down to the Sahara Desert area where it faced loose sandy tracks.

When it was time to call it a day, the rooftop solar array expanded outward to maximize recharging in the remaining daylight as well as creating an awning like one would find in a camper van. The seats also fully recline to form a bed.

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