On Sunday 6th at 8:30 am in Darwin (Australia) the World Solar Challenge 2013 will start. WSC is a competition that every two years since 1987 tests solar-powered vehicles produced by universities and research centers around the world. Crossing Australia for 3,000 kilometers from Darwin to Adelaide this year will be not only prototypes looking like flying saucers or torpedoes, as we used to see. The winning projects will not only be the most energy efficient, lightest or most aerodynamic.

Alongside the Challenger class, which evaluates efficiency and endurance, and the Adventure class, focused on sport as well as technology, this year the WSC will also provide the new Cruiser class which evaluates power consumption as well as the cars’ comfort, convenience and elegance. The prototypes that will compete in this class will have to carry at least two passengers and will be able to stop and recharge the batteries once a day as the competition goal is to select vehicles ready for type approval for unrestricted use on the road.

At the end of scruteeniring, the car that was placed in pole position in the Cruiser is Stella, presented by Solar Team Eindhoven of the Technische Universiteit Eindhoven and supported by a host of sponsors and a young and passionate team.

I think three are the most interesting features unique to this car. It can carry four people. It has a range of 400 kilometers on cloudy days and 650 km on a sunny. And it is an active car: under typical conditions (daily urban home-to-work commuting) produces annually on average more energy than it consumes. So the excess electricity could be sold to the grid, for example through the charging stations in parking lots. Note that this feature was not tested in a sunny country like Italy but in rainy Netherlands.

The overall quality of this project can be measured by the fact that Stella has a license plate because the car has already been type approved in the Netherlands.

The long marathon of the World Solar Challenge will last a week. Certainly we will have to wait a much longer time before the sustainable mobility model suggested by Stella will be realised, but maybe less time than you might think.