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RV Review: Stella Vita experimental motorhome from the Netherlands

Passionate students in universities can be a powerful thing – bringing new light to old ideas. That’s exactly what happened at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, when the students put their minds to the RV space. Dubbed “Stella Vita,” the project the 22 students came up with was an RV that has all the features you would expect in a motorhome but without the need for having to ever refuel.

You see, the Stella Vita is completely solar-powered. 

To test their vehicle, the team went from Eindhoven to the southern most tip of Span, a trip of almost 1,900 miles. The result? Everything worked just like they said it would. 

How

One of the things I’ve been harping on in my articles is aerodynamics. While lots of folks buy lots of RVs hoping to use less fuel or a less capable tow vehicle, the result with American RVs is almost always the same. You’re getting terrible fuel mileage. 

Take the case of my own travel trailer, where I used to pull the sub-3,000 pound rig with a V6 Nissan Frontier. Generally, I would average between 11-14 miles per gallon of fuel. Then I bought a Ram 1500 with a significantly larger engine and with the tow vehicle having much more mass. 

I still get between 11-14 miles per gallon. 

Once you’re at highway speeds, the biggest factor in your economy is shoving a giant square box through the air. You, my friends, are going to get horrible fuel economy doing this.

The first obstacle the team overcame is the simple fact that if you make a vehicle more aerodynamically efficient, it takes less energy to move it, especially at highway speeds. This is why your Cadillac and the Honda Civic in the next lane look so similar: They’re shaped to cut through the wind. 

The Stella Vita is extremely aerodynamic

Stella Vita was designed to be extremely aerodynamic, being shaped like a teardrop. Essentially, this shape plus a very light structure mean that Stella Vita actually uses less energy than it generates with the rooftop solar panels as it’s going down the road. 

“It’s a very particular looking car so when you’re driving through, for example, Paris or another city, all the people are there waving, taking photos,” says 21-year-old Tijn Ter Horst, a member of Solar Team Eindhoven 2021. “It’s great to see what we achieved in one year and we’re really looking forward to inspiring even more people.”

But then, you also have the reality that you want to put living quarters in and be able to stand up as well. That’s where typical RVs excel – but they addressed this as well. 

The Stella Vita is fully equipped with living essentials. Those include a double bed, sofa, kitchen area and a bathroom with a shower, sink and toilet. It can fit two people, who can drive, cook and watch television using just the vehicle’s solar-charged battery, according to the students.

The way this is accomplished is through a roof that raises up providing standing room. In some ways this reminds me of a really huge version of the Safari Condo Alto R1713, which is much the same idea but in a travel trailer. And those are available to buy. 

Raise the roof

When it’s parked, the extendable roof of the Stella Vita can rise up to allow passengers to stand. Extra solar panels slide out from the sides, doubling the solar surface from 8.8 square meters to 17.5 square meters. While stationary, passengers can also track their energy consumption using the built-in infotainment system.

The team started brainstorming for the project last September and they came up with the idea for Stella Vita in two months. From November 2020 until March this year, they designed the campervan, aiming to make it as aerodynamic and lightweight as possible while still making it look good.

By July, they had finished building it and started to test the vehicle on the road. The camper was licensed for use on public roads at the beginning of September and began its European tour later that month.

Mileage in the Stella Vita

The vehicle can typically travel up to 600 kilometers (373 miles) on its 60-kWh battery when fully charged, even at night and when it is cloudy. On a day when the sun is shining throughout, its range increases by an extra 130 kilometers (81 miles). The team drove approximately 300 kilometers (186 miles) between each destination, at a top speed of 120 kilometers (75 miles) per hour.

While there are few details about the way this vehicle is built, it seems to be constructed with a tubular frame, which is much like the classic Mercedes-Benz 300SL gull wing coupe. The engineering philosophy there was the same here, build something strong and lightweight. 

Of course, there are questions that are currently left unanswered. But imagine taking a present-day Tesla Model X and extending it a good amount and then adding a pop top? That would make a nifty camping rig and, with American infrastructure, you could charge the thing overnight at a campsite with 50-amp service. 

All-electric RVs in the U.S.

This is a nifty experiment. Of course, several U.S. manufacturers are already toying with the idea of an all-electric RV. The most promising one is Sylvan Sport, with their forthcoming and quite realistic electric RV. 

Would you even consider something like this if it were made available? 

Tony comes to RVTravel having worked at an RV dealership and been a life long RV enthusiast. He also has written the syndicated Curbside column about cars. You can find his writing here and at StressLessCamping where he also has a podcast about the RV life with his wife. 

These RV reviews are written based on information provided by the manufacturers along with our writer’s own research. We receive no money or other financial benefits from these reviews. They are intended only as a brief overview of the vehicle, not a comprehensive critique, which would require a thorough inspection and/or test drive.

Got an RV we need to look at? Contact us today and let us know in the form below – thank you!

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Mitzi Agnew Giles and Ed Giles
28 days ago

A shaakedown cruise is driven less miles each day so the vehicle can be examined each stop to check for problems and analyze data. I can’t imagine students on a concept vehicle shakedown cruise driving for 10-24 hours as I used to do once upon a time (record for me was 22 hours Northern VA to St Pete FL)but I was younger then.
I really like the lines and pix of the Safari Alto. I would definitely be interested in this baby, I already chose an all electric trailer to guard against problems I have already seen that were caused by inattention/ignorance of use of non electric fuels.
In fact I would be open to purchase one of these, if I had the cash and if it made it to this continent before I died.

Snayte
1 month ago

Wait, is that a Lippert sticker on the front door?

Snayte
1 month ago

I like it. It would never be able to drive on US roads with that little ground clearance though. 🙂

Tommy Molnar
1 month ago

“Would you even consider something like this if it were made available?”

No.

Glen Cowgill
1 month ago

Look at the horsepower formulae for weight and you will see why it didn’t make much difference what you were towing with. You are still moving x amount of weight.

Bob P
1 month ago

If this were true every EV manufacturer would be offering billions of dollars for their plans. This would eliminate charging stations completely, this technology would eliminate power companies. Just think about it, no high power lines strung across the land, no more power outages due to storms, 2/3 of Texas would’ve been bright and warm last winter, refiners would’ve kept running, oops we wouldn’t need them anymore, I forgot.

Bob P
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob P

DW may be right I’m sounding hateful. Lol

Donald N Wright
1 month ago

This is a nice idea, I hope Thor doesn’t buy the patent and squash it like other good ideas.
Tony, while you are thinking about Aerodynamics, have you ever published any results on using wings/spoilers on tow vehicles to help move the RV down the road? Where is a spare wind tunnel when you need one?

Snayte
1 month ago

We seem to get better mileage (1- 2 mpg) when we have our canoe on the roof of our truck. Based on the bug pattern on the front of the trailer it is definitely splitting the wind some.

Dan
1 month ago

I’m kinda skeptical that the the article says it generates more electricity than it uses going down the road. And on a sunny day it has a total range of 454 miles, but was only driven 186 miles between stops. Hmm. Is that 454 miles by calculation and 186 miles in the real world? I guess I’d like to see the range from a full charge to the point where it rolls to a stop. I’m not bashing electric vehicles at all, as I believe they are definitely in our future. but sometimes the numbers are questionable.

Bob P
1 month ago
Reply to  Dan

I believe they have invented something every engineer says is impossible, the perfect machine, as it makes more energy than it uses. We have to wait to hear about it here, I would think an amazing discovery like this would be plastered across the planet in every form of media…if it’s true. Yes I’m a skeptic, and this sounds like one of those stories about how it’s so good it’s hard to believe. Sorry Tony, I’m not calling you out, I just think it’s strange we’ve not heard of this “great engineering feet” from any other source.

Warren G
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob P

I’m generally somewhat skeptical as well, but after spending 2 1/2 weeks in The Netherlands a few years ago I know they have some of the best engineers in the world and seeing it in person is amazing. Also, while we’re certainly not big time world travelers, I have visited several countries and come to realize that here in the US we (and the news) is primarily focused domestically. I’ve been surprised about how much the people we meet overseas know about our country and what’s going on here, while our knowledge of their country and news is extremely limited.

KellyR
1 month ago
Reply to  Warren G

Warren, you have got that right!

Frans Schouten
1 month ago
Reply to  Dan

Dan .Some RV people going from one place to the next, will drive 350 miles or even more. As older people we never drive more then 200 miles a day. We want to find a nice Camping and have the rest of the day off. So they may have had the same idea. Driving in Europe is very stressfull. I KNOW!