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This solar-powered off-road car just drove through the Sahara

The Stella Terra was made by a group of Dutch students

Some Dutch students believe in solar power for electric vehicles. PHOTO FROM EINDHOVEN UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY

How would you like a car that you could drive without ever having to pay for fuel? Sounds pretty sweet, right? It seems the world is slowly getting closer to making this a reality, largely thanks to advances in solar technology.

Just recently, we wrote how new solar panels that could be painted might soon be used in everyday cars, and now a group of students from the Netherlands has driven a solar-powered electric car from Morocco all the way to the Sahara desert in what might go down as one of the most successful test drives ever.

Solar Team Eindhoven is made up of students from the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, and the group has just achieved a pretty astonishing feat. Using just the power of the sun, the team managed to drive 1,000km from northern Morocco right down to the Sahara desert. In doing so, they conquered some of the most inhospitable driving terrains on earth, and they did it all in a solar-powered off-road car of their own design.

It's weird-looking, but the design was dictated by aerodynamics and efficiency. PHOTOS FROM EINDHOVEN UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY

Called the Stella Terra, the vehicle is claimed to be the first off-road car powered by the energy of the sun, and might give us an idea of what green SUVs of the future could look like.

The Terra weighs just 1,200kg and has a top speed of 145km/h. Its makers initially estimated that it would have a range of 550km to 710km per charge, but this turned out to be the nice type of wrong. During their epic tripwhich was pretty much their first proper test drivethe students managed to drive 1,000km without having to plug the car in to charge.

With students developing tech this advanced, consider the future of the automobile in great hands. PHOTOS FROM EINDHOVEN UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY

The secret behind this achievement largely lies in the solar panels that form part of the roof. These, combined with the rugged construction of this eco-friendly 4×4, enabled it to drive through rough terrain, riverbeds, and ultimately even the Sahara desert.

Where university students from other countries conduct their record runs in wind-still hangars, the Dutch engineers of tomorrow threw their invention to the mercy of the elements to prove that it could be self-sustainable.

According to the professional looking after the team, this kind of tech is at least 10 years ahead of normal cars, so there’s hope that in the not-too-distant future, we’ll get cars that can go anywhere and cost us nothing to run.

Frank Schuengel

Frank is a German e-commerce executive who loves his wife, a Filipina, so much he decided to base himself in Manila. He has interesting thoughts on Philippine motoring. He writes the aptly named ‘Frankly’ column.