Two ex-Lightyear employees present budget solar car for city use

Munich already had its own budget solar car, so today a Dutch version will be added especially designed for the city: the Squad (solar quad). The idea came from two former Lightyear employees who wanted to design an affordable solar car for a large group of consumers.

Two passengers can sit next to each other in this 45 km/h solar car and there is enough space for luggage in the boot. The Squad combines the practical convenience of a scooter with the comfort and stability of a city car. Sheet metal and doors have been omitted in order to make the car as light and cheap as possible. The Squad costs almost €6,000.

More about solar cars can be found here.

The solar car can automatically charge up to 9,000 kilometers per year using its own sunroof. This is all it takes for users to drive 30 kilometers or about an hour emission-free every day, according to Squad Mobility’s CEO Robert Hoevers. “Most vehicles in this segment don’t drive much more than 6,000 kilometers each year. But if users need extra range, it can be recharged directly from a regular power outlet. Fully charged, you could drive up to 100 kilometers. Consumers can also opt to order additional battery packs for more range.”

Old cities need new solutions

In Hoevers’ opinion, emissions and congestion are the biggest problems associated with urban mobility. “Our old cities are not equipped for cars. In the Netherlands, we are seeing a trend towards further urbanization, with 90% of city dwellers living in suburbs and surrounding areas. All of these people like to go to the city regularly. For work, school, going out or shopping. This is not feasible in the end. Public transport and cycling are excellent solutions, yet they’re not a good alternative for everyone. For instance when it rains or if you live far from a bus stop or station.”

Parked cars take about 10 square meters of space, he says, while a Squad only needs 2 square meters. ” You can park five Squads on the same spot as one car, crosswise on a parking lot. You don’t have to take open doors into account when parking, that saves space.”

Hoevers works together with Chris Klok and is responsible for the design of the solar car. Together they have more than 40 years of experience in mobility. From scooters to motorcycles, the FIA Formula E, solar cars and even flying cars. “We’ve spent a lot of time on the design of the Squad. The compact dimensions were a major challenge. We wanted to move away from the ‘archetypal car’ in which people move through the city in a small closed-off cage. The objective was to create a more social, interactive experience whereby passengers are involved in the social setting of their urban environment while experiencing comfort and protection from the elements. A complete roll cage with seatbelts and the stability of 4 wheels provide maximum safety for all passengers. Helmets aren’t necessary.”

From A to B quickly, easily, safely

The Squad solar car has also been designed with shared services platforms in mind. Hoevers: “Users of these platforms want to get safely from A to B quickly and easily. Cities are looking for solutions with a minimal use of limited space and the lowest emissions. Automatic charging on solar energy is of course ideal for a shared services platform. The portable, interchangeable batteries minimize the ‘downtime’ that the Squad experiences when charging. In addition, its ruggedness, sturdiness and low maintenance levels are key demands in this market.” Subscription and lease options will be offered from 2020 onward. The aim is to keep the lease price below 100 euros per month.

At the same time, the company is also launching a variant with extra space in the boot and is thinking about releasing an 80km/h version in the future.

Dutch newcomers are the first to start at the World Solar Challenge down under in Darwin

Last night, hopefully while you were still fast asleep, the sun was already blazing in Darwin, Australia. At half past eight in the morning local time, the starting shot sounded for the first solar car in the World Solar Challenge. The ‘newcomers’ from the North of the Netherlands qualified yesterday for the pole position by setting a track record in Darwin. “We have shown right away that other teams have to take us seriously,” Eline Hestra from the Top Dutch Solar Racing team says while in Australia. An hour later, the last of almost fifty solar cars also set course towards the finish line, 3000 kilometers away in Adelaide.

For more than two years, 26 students from Hanze University Groningen, University of Groningen, Noorderpoort and Friesland College have been working on the further development of each their cars. This is the first time that they have taken part in the Solar Challenge. “A few team members went to the previous event for input and ideas for our car. We also looked at the other Dutch teams to see how they were going about it.” But Hestra assures us that the team did not ‘cheat’. “There’s no fun in that. Our engineers had a good look around and tried out a great deal. In the end, they made their own decisions.”

Those decisions turned out to be successful. Because on Friday, the team was able to pass the final inspections remarkably easily. “It was very exciting and to be honest, we were quite surprised how fast this went. The inspection team stated that they were impressed by the car. A really fantastic compliment, of course,” Hestra explains. It was even more exciting because the team designed their own battery system that had to be tested extensively for the sake of safety.

Inspection of the car © Job Verkruisen

From eight o’clock in the morning until five o’clock in the afternoon, about fifty solar cars in three different classes are driving through the outback of Australia. “It’s the first time for us. Other teams have the advantage that they know how to better manage the race.” The teams have to go through checkpoints every day whereby all of the cars are inspected. “You can also replace parts or repair things there. We all have to do this as efficiently as possible. Off the top of my head, there are about nine stops. So, if you waste five minutes at each stop, you’ve already lost 45 minutes.”

Hestra doesn’t dare say if her team has a chance of winning: “Of course we will do everything we can. We’ve been working hard on this for a while now. A track record like that is great and proves that we are serious. Everybody gotten a bit nervous the past few days. You can feel the tension in the air. But no matter how well prepared we are, a lot can still go wrong along the way. We try to take this into account as well. We have spare parts. Plus while we were building the car, we sought out parts that can be easily repaired.”

The other Dutch teams had a less than flawless preparation. A solar panel broke during the transport of the Eindhoven Solar Team car. And last Wednesday during a test drive, the TU Delft car crashed into the guardrail. The driver escaped with just a fright. Nevertheless, there was a lot of tinkering going on in the past few days to get the car to the starting line on time. The race ends in Adelaide on October the 20th.

© Job Verkruisen

Stella Era: Start of a new era for the solar car

“The Stella Era marks the beginning of a new era wherein the car no is no longer just focused only on itself,” is how Mick van der Spoel, project manager of the Solar Team Eindhoven, introduced the new name of the fourth solar car from Eindhoven. The Stella Era also refers to the team as ‘a battery on wheels’. The sharing of energy is indeed one of the most important new functions of the solar car. In October, the student team will try to defend its title during the World Solar Challenge 2019.

Energy is for sharing

There are three connections at the rear of the car, one for charging the car at a charging station, one for charging other electric vehicles, and a normal socket so that you can make coffee on the campsite for instance. Using the proprietary Stella App, the Stella Era can be found on a map on which you will also see charging stations. This allows you to look for another solar car so that you can recharge your own electric car. To make sure that you always have enough energy left to drive home, the Era takes the weather conditions and the appointments in your schedule into account.

Of course, at the moment the car needs to be in the sun in order to charge as efficiently as possible and generally speaking, you are not going to be moving your car a couple of times during your workday. The student team has come up with a solution for this as well: the car does this by itself! Thanks to a collaboration with TomTom, among others, the Era can determine where the most sun is at any given time in the parking lot. The Era is then able to drive itself to the new location thanks to sensors and radar located around the car. In addition, the car keeps to the perimeter of the parking lot where it is located. Marije Sesink, PR-manager of Solar Team Eindhoven, explains the features: “We designed this car not only for the Australian outback, but also for cities where there is plenty of shade.”

Efficiency

Like its predecessors in the Stella family, the Era is all about efficiency. This is reflected in the teardrop shape of the car, but also in the cameras that are used instead of side mirrors. Aside from that, the weight has been kept as low as possible and the transmission has been made as efficient as possible. Where in previous years the transmission was still being purchased from other manufacturers, the team has now redesigned it from the ground up. “We did this on the basis of a publication by someone at the university,” says Van der Spoel. “A normal company takes five years, whereas we only have nine months for this.” By using this self-designed drivetrain, the engine efficiency in theory is at 98.5%. In comparison: the efficiency of a regular petrol engine is about 25% and the engines of in the first Stella were just over 90%. “The last few percent seems small, but this is a major step,” Van der Spoel explains.

Collaboration with Audi

In order to build the best car possible as a student team, Solar Team Eindhoven has collaborated a lot with various companies. In addition to partners such as TomTom and NXP, who are making autonomous driving possible, the team also has a partnership now with a leading car manufacturer: Audi. The cameras that replace the side mirrors come from the Audi E-tron. “Regular car manufacturers are also increasingly recognizing the need for efficiency, and the replacement of side mirrors is a good example of this,” says Van der Spoel. “We are extremely pleased that we have taken the first step by working with a car manufacturer. At the end of the day, we also want to see our technology actually on the road.

Stella Era laadt een e-bike op

On the way to Adelaide

Before the car travels to Australia, the team wants to again apply for a license plate from the RDW (the Netherlands Vehicle Authority), just as did with the Stella Vie. There is still a lot of testing and development to be done before all the plans become reality. But the goal is clear: Win. Sessink: “The rules of the World Solar Challenge have changed a lot, so now you can only charge twice. Also, now there is more focus on the functionality of the car. Whereas at first 70% of the final score was based on the car’s efficiency while only 30% was on comfort, that has now been leveled out.” This is why Solar Team Eindhoven wants to impress the jury with the first family solar car that has autonomous features which can also be used as a charging station.

Stella Era
© IO

Solar Team Eindhoven is crossing a continent using sunlight

Driving 3000 kilometers through the Australian desert in a car solely powered by sunlight – this is what Solar Team Eindhoven is setting forth in less than three days. The team which designed Stella Vie – “the most efficient family car that has ever been built”, is participating in the World Solar Challenge 2017 in Australia whose purpose is to find the world’s most efficient electric car.

Solar Team Eindhoven is participating in the Challenge with Stella Vie – “the first solar powered family car ever to seat five people”. This futuristic solar car is exclusive for several reasons. “First, this is the first solar car that seats 5 people,”  Wout Gubbels, team manager of Solar Team Eindhoven, explained. “Second, it generates more energy than it uses, thus, the surplus energy can be supplied back to the electric grid or even to the house. For example, people can use that energy to make coffee or do the laundry. Third, it provides efficient driving assistance – it finds the most efficient route, driving speed, and parking spot which will generate the most solar energy. Also, Vie charges in the sun while parked which makes it the car for everyday life,” Gubbels added.

The design philosophy behind the car incorporates a balance between aerodynamic, aesthetic, and practical design. “We wanted to inspire people with our car. We wanted to make a car people will like in terms of design and that they will see themselves driving in the future.”

By participating at the World Solar Challenge 2017 the team hopes to inspire as many people as possible to contribute to a more sustainable future. “Our ultimate goal is winning the Challenge but we also want to inspire others to make a difference with sustainable transport.”

The team is going to compete in the Cruiser Class where the winner will be selected on the basis of both energy efficiency and practicality. “The team which carries the most people using the least amount of energy per person will win. But practicality also matters here – for example, if the car is with aesthetic design or not.”

Although this is his first time at the World Solar Challenge, Gubbels said he and his team did not have worries that something could get wrong. “One issue we had was that our car was delayed. It arrived almost a month later than planned, so we did not have enough time to test it for another 3000km. But we tested it last weekend as if it was the real challenge, we tested many scenarios, and everything went well.”

Wout Gubbels

World Solar Challenge 2017
Every two years the World Solar Challenge welcomes some of the brightest young people from around the world with the aim to address the imperatives of sustainable transport. It offers them the opportunity to design and build an ultra-efficient electric vehicle, bring it to Australia, and prove their concepts in a 3000km-journey through the Australian desert.

The Challenge has three Classes which the participating teams can enter: The Challenger ClassThe Adventure Class, and The Cruiser Class, in which Solar Team Eindhoven will compete. The Cruiser Class is focused on solar cars designed for practicality and acceptance in a given market segment. The teams which participate in the Cruiser Class aim to change the way people think about what they drive and what fuels they use.

The Challenge continues for eight days and the participants have to drive from 8 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon. There are mandatory checkpoints where the drivers change and the team managers can update themselves with the latest information on the weather and their position in the field.

The World Solar Challenge begins on 8 October and ends on 15 October. We will be following it and updating you with the latest information about the performance of Stella Vie and Solar Team Eindhoven.

Photos: TU Eindhoven, Bart van Overbeeke.