The world’s first solar-powered “family car” capable of traveling 75 mph stopped in Santa Barbara on Monday. It was created by Dutch students from Eindhoven University of Technology, and the group of 20 techies are touring the West Coast to wow Americans and demonstrate that the futuresque-looking vehicle is actually a thing of the present.
“We’re just here to show the car and to inspire people,” said Lex Hoefsloot, a representative of Solar Team Eindhoven. “It’s possible to make a [solar-powered family] car today. It’s not a future thing.” Last year, at the World Solar Challenge in Australia, the team presented the first-ever — and only — four-seat solar-powered vehicle, which is “energy-positive,” meaning it generates more energy than it uses and can return electricity to the power grid. The car can travel 800 kilometers, or about 500 miles, in one trip on a sunny day.
Incorporated into the design are other advanced technologies, such as a system that can communicate with traffic lights to determine if they are about to change from red to green. The car usually travels in the middle lane of the highway, and Hoefsloot said about half of the people who pass them take their picture. From here, the group plans to meet with companies in San Francisco, Hoefsloot said. The team will compete in the next world challenge in Australia in 2015.