A few weeks back I was driving from Philadelphia to Hershey PA and found a Nissan leaf driving ahead of me in the city. I was admiring the design and technology of this cute little car completely oblivious to the fact that the driver had no intention of entering the interstate – perhaps he didn’t want to go to Hershey or perhaps he simply couldn’t. Yes the leaf is highway capable, yes it looks cool, yes it saves a ton on gas but is it fun to drive? hmm, not quite. The problem with the electric car is the battery, batteries are utterly useless in cars, they cannot even start the conventional piston engine on a cold morning without you having to call AAA, let alone powering the whole thing, and this is something I cannot understand, unless there is a real breakthrough in the battery technology like the invention of High Fructose Corn syrup or the pet rock, car companies should not enter mass production and face humiliation at the hands of people who drink soda and own pet rocks.
The leaf has a range of 80 – 100 miles and it would take many hours to reach full charge, looking cool is not possible as the driver will almost always be looking at the battery charge level, pushing buttons to turn on the radio or even the turn signal will result is losing valuable miles and then there is the uneasiness of the whole thing, a constant subconscious fear that the car will never make it. Every long trip has to be meticulously planned with traffic/ road work/ alternate routes and the odd dead deer in mind. This is not driving at all; it is the road equivalent of steering the Apollo13 back home. So the world is running out of gas, batteries only work in laptops – for one year and Hydrogen which is perhaps the only fuel that has a huge potential announced its intentions with the Hindenburg. Which brings me to the Stella – a solar powered car that can carry 4 people and has a range of – are you ready – 375 miles.
The Stella was built by students at the Eindhoven University of Technology (Netherlands) and I was compelled to have a look at this university’s portfolio and it seems it has a lot of smart people and Stella is not the first car they have built. Smart people give me a lot of reassurance – Steve Wozniack, Nicola Tesla and Robert Oppenheimer were smart and their inventions worked ( but had there not been Nicola Tesla, the other two would have failed). Smart people are hard to find and don’t always have a wonderful life, of the three I mentioned – the chubby one had an air crash and lost his memory, the skinny one was called a communist and publicly humiliated and the smartest of the trio married a pigeon. Which means the makers of the Stella may give the world an extraordinary invention and in the process destroy their own lives. Stella is solar powered and so it looks awkward however it still looks much better than the ones we are used to seeing on popular science which look exactly like rooftop solar panel onto which the wheels of a baby pram are nailed.
The Stella is also said to produce more power than it consumes, which means it will be taxed by the governments of the world as they among other things also own the Sun. Before I pack up for the day, I hand out my gratitude to the brilliant minds at the Eindhoven University of Technology and wish them success in the World Solar Challenge they will be competing later this year in Australia.