In a previous article, we talked about the experimental Stella Vita motorhome. Unlike almost every other camper on the planet (this is the other exception I know of), the Stella Vita runs on sunlight. It does not need to be recharged from the electricity grid, which still uses fossil fuels. It only needs the sun on its back to move around and power its interior arrangements.
The student team that built this vehicle made it work pretty much the way Aptera expects it to. By making the vehicle super efficient, much less energy is needed to move it on the road. That means the limitations of solar technology don’t get in the way as much. In other words, if you can get by with less, it doesn’t matter that solar technology gives you less.
To make it a functional motorhome, they had to use the pop-top method. We’ve seen this idea work (and very well) for the better part of a century with things like popup motorhomes and Westfalia VW microbuses, so it’s a proven way to make something small grow bigger when you arrive at your camping destination. Even better, it allowed the team to increase the vehicle’s solar power by 200%, as they also included sliding solar panels in the sunroof, so the vehicle can recharge faster when it’s on. station.
As cool as this design is, we couldn’t really see it in action. I found a short video on the team’s YouTube channel, and found lots of footage. I would love to see him in person, but traveling to Europe is expensive and I have four dependent children, so it just wasn’t planned. But now we are able to see what Fully loaded show I thought about it :
They traveled to the Netherlands to see the vehicle in person, so now we can all see what EV enthusiasts think!
They started with an interview with two of the student team members who designed and built the car. They told him the story of driving the vehicle not only locally, but on a 3,000 km journey to the southernmost point of Europe (in Spain). They had to charge the car on the power grid at two points on the trip, but only because they needed to make improvements and test them in Paris, and because of the lack of sunshine later in the trip.
Like the upcoming Aptera, it shows us that solar power is very important, but having the grid to back you up during those times when you need more power than the sun can give you is also vital. If you’re a hardcore solar fanatic and can’t stand using the grid, you can obviously wait and drive when you can with future electric RVs, but that’s not a good option for everyone.
Next, we see the process of folding the motorhome from its driving configuration. Honestly, this seems about as difficult as a popup camper (so, not difficult at all). The roof pops up, the solar panels slide out, and you’re good to go! Or, stay and charge, actually. Later, they tell the story of the first time they stopped at a campsite. They said people were stunned and the vehicle drew a small crowd who had no idea such a thing existed. Although that means not everyone reads Clean Technica (sad face), that means the average camper is impressed with this kind of project and would be interested in any future production versions!
We also discover some technical details. The car’s battery is “the same size as a Tesla Model 3” (we don’t know what battery size), but can travel 600 kilometers (372 miles) on one charge. It’s pretty darn effective for something big enough to sleep in and relax. Everything from the battery to the drivetrain was designed for efficiency, so that’s a reasonable and possible number. Even the weight is low for the size of the vehicle (1700 kg, 3850 lb). But it’s not dangerous. It is built with a safety cage for the occupants and should be very safe in the event of a collision.
It would be nice to know more, but they don’t seem to want to tell us too much at this point. Later in the video we discover that the roof of the vehicle (when folded down) produces a peak of 2 kilowatts. With the roof extended in camping mode, you get around 4 kilowatts, which is not to be overlooked. A full charge can be done in 3 days, but you can get 200 km of range in one day of charging.
We see the presenter standing in the vehicle and looking around, which gives us a much better idea of his size. The answer is that it is much larger than I thought from the photos. There’s a ton of headroom with the top folded down, and there’s plenty of room above the bed. I know a wide angle lens was used, but it’s still very spacious.
It has a sink (with running water), induction hob and fridge, so you don’t have to give up creature comforts either. Didn’t see a toilet, but you can easily bring compost toilets and peat moss.
The seats seemed very comfortable and things like the mirrors are easy to see. There’s a large display to show the driver the remaining range, the power produced by the roof, and it can be removed to be used in the back for entertainment during camping stops. The removable screen can be used in conjunction with the audio system when it’s off, so you get the comforts of home too.
The vehicle is obviously a far cry from anything a company would actually build and sell, but it appears to have a very good fit and finish for a prototype. It’s also proven itself on a real-world road trip, so it’s a viable concept. Hopefully some enterprising RV builders will consider building something like this, assuming a company like Aptera doesn’t beat them to the punch. The team said they’re ready to help any company that wants to, so that’s a good start.
There’s a lot more in the video, so be sure to watch it above!
Featured image and other images of Stella Vita by Bart van Overbeeke and Solar Team Eindhoven.
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