Unlike almost every other camper on the face of the planet (the only exception I know of), the Stella Vita runs in the sunlight. It does not require charging from the power grid, it still uses fossil fuels. It needs nothing but the sun on its back to move and energise its internal comforts.
The student team that built this vehicle made it work in the same way that Aptera planned. By making the vehicle super efficient, it requires a lot less power to move it on the road. This means that the limits of solar technology are not much on the way. In other words, if you can get less money, it doesn’t matter that solar technology gives you less.
To make this a viable camper, they had to use a pop-top approach. We’ve seen this idea work for the better part of the century with things like popup tent campers and the Westphalia VW Microbus (and well), so it’s a proven way to get smaller when you reach your camping destination. Even better, it gave the team a way to increase the vehicle’s solar power by 200%, because they include slide-out solar panels on the pop-top so they can be charged faster when parked.
As cool as this design is, we couldn’t see it in action. I found a short video on the team’s YouTube channel and I found a lot of pictures. I’d love to see it in person, but a trip to Europe is expensive and I have four children to take care of, so it wasn’t on the cards. But now we’ll be able to see what the fully charged show thought of it:
They have travelled to the Netherlands to see the vehicle in person, so now we’ll see what EV enthusiasts think about it!
He began with an interview with two student team members who designed and built the car. He told the story of driving a vehicle not only locally but also on a 3,000km trip to the southern point of Europe (in Spain). They had to charge the car for grid power at two places on the tour, but they had to make some improvements and check them out in Paris and then lack sunlight on the trip.
Like the upcoming Optera, this shows us that solar energy is very important, but it is also important to have a grid to back you up at the time when the sun needs more energy than it gives you. If you are a keen solar fanatic and cannot tolerate using the grid, you can expect it and drive with future electric RVs when you can, but this is not a good option for everyone.
Next, we will see the process of folding the camper van from its driving configuration. Honestly, it looks as difficult as a popup camper (and therefore, not difficult). The top will crank, the solar panels will slide and you’re good to go! Or, stay real and charge. Later, he tells the story of his first trip to the campsite. He said people were amazed and the vehicle attracted a small group of people who did not know such a thing existed. This means that not everyone reads Cleantechnica, the average camper is impressed by this type of project and is interested in any future production version!
We also found some technical details. The car’s battery is “the same size as the Tesla Model 3” (we’re not sure what size it is), but can go up to 600 kilometres (372 miles) on a charge. Big enough to sleep and relax. Everything from battery to drivetrain is designed for efficiency, so this is a reasonable and possible number. The weight is also small for the vehicle (1700 kg, 3850 lb). But it is not unsafe. It is built with a safety cage for residents and should be very secure in the event of an accident.
It’s good to know more details, but it seems they don’t want to tell us much at this point. Later in the video, we find that the roof of the vehicle (when folded down) produces a 2 kilowatt maximum. With an expansive roof in camping mode, you get about 4 kilowatts, which is nothing short of spectacular. Full charge can happen in 3 days, but you can get up to 200km on a day’s worth of charging.
We see the presenter standing in the vehicle and looking around and it gives us a better idea of how big it is. The answer is that it is bigger than I thought from the photos. The top of the one-ton headroom is folded up and there’s plenty of room on the bed. I know a wide-angle lens has been used, but still, it’s seriously wide.
It has a sink (with running water), induction cooktop and refrigerator, so you don’t have to give up on organism comfort. I didn’t see the toilet, but you could easily bring a composting toilet and some peat moss.
Seats seem very comfortable, and things like mirrors are easy to see. There is a large display to show the driver the remaining range, how much power the roof generates and can be removed for use at the rear for entertaining during camping stops. The removable screen can be used in conjunction with the audio system when stopped, so you get the comfort of home.
The vehicle is certainly a long way from what the company actually builds and sells, but it seems to have a good fit and finish for the prototype. It has proven itself on a road trip in the real world, so it is a viable concept. Hopefully some enterprising RV builders will consider building something like this, hoping a company like Aptera won’t beat them to the punch. The team said they are willing to help any company that wants to do this, so this is a good start.
Featured image and other images by Stella Vita by Bart Van Overbeek and Solar Team Eindhoven.
Source’s Stella Vita