Automobile

I Want To Spend My Summers Chasing The Sun In This Solar-Powered RV

The solar-powered campervan is set up to charge with its roof extended to show its solar tiles

The Stella Vita campervan has solar panels on its roof
Photo: STE / Rien Boonstoppel

I love a good campervan. I’m a sucker for a VW T5 packed with clever design flourishes to maximize space, and love the idea of heading off-grid to go camping, road tripping, or chasing the sun and seasonal flavors around the country.

But in a traditional camper, you’re not really off-grid. You need to stop for fuel or to charge the on-board batteries that power your creature comforts. Well, for anyone seeking a truly off-grid camping experience, a university in The Netherlands has created a one-off solar-powered camper that could answer all your prayers.

A team from Eindhoven University of Technology in The Netherlands has created Stella Vita, an electrically-powered campervan that is adorned with solar panels to charge its batteries. Students say it’s meant to demonstrate to the RV industry what’s already possible with existing technology.

Across its roof, the camper has up to 180 square-feet of solar panels, which charge a 60-kWh battery pack to power the van as it drives. The team behind the Stella Vita said it also has enough energy on board to power the shower, TV, charge your laptop, and make coffee.

When you’re out on the road, the battery pack provides up to 370 miles of range. On top of this, CNN reports that the solar cells on the Stella Vita’s roof can add an extra 80 miles of range on a sunny day.

The electric campervan parked up with its roof popped open

Photo: STE / Bart van Overbeeke

Inside, the campervan has seating up front for a driver and passengers, as well as a bench in the back for when you’re parked. The van is also fitted out with a small kitchen area, bed and a roof that pops up to give campers space to stand.

The pop-up roof is also where you’ll find the van’s solar cells. There’s an array on the roof itself and, once popped up, two additional sheets of solar panels can slide out to increase charging capacity.

To test the Stella Vita’s solar-powered performance, a team of students from the university drove from Eindhoven to Spain, passing through Belgium and France on the way. During the month-long road trip, the team travelled 1,800 miles and stopped along the way to showcase the high-tech vehicle.

Despite facing issues at the start of its test expedition, which forced the team to transport the van via trailer for the initial stages of the journey, Stella Vita covered more than 1,200 miles of public roads under its own power.

We’ve discussed the feasibility of solar-powered cars in the past, and it doesn’t look like a great alternative to the current charging solutions. But, in something like a van, with its larger roof area, and a camping vehicle hat will spend a lot of time parked, could solar power prove popular? Maybe one day we’ll see eco-minded vanlifers rushing out to place an order for a Stella Vita of their own.

I for one would love to spend my days chasing the sun across the US so my electrically-charged van never runs out of juice.


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