Meet Stella, the funkiest solar car you’ve ever seen  

While the use of electricity to power consumer vehicles like the Prius and the Tesla Model S is just now starting to capture the public’s imagination, a truly solar powered car remains elusive.

Although Ford announced concepts for a hybrid solar powered/EV earlier this year, it remains essentially an electric car that tops itself up with solar power whenever possible. Sometimes cues from concept vehicles wind up being incorporated in future models, but harnessing the power of the sun as a primary source of energy isn’t a priority for vehicles in this field.

A group of designers from the Netherlands is looking to change all that with the first solar vehicle that can comfortably transport four people, and it’s adorably named “Stella”.

“A four-seated car is (in our opinion) functional and essential for families,” Solar Team Eindhoven lead designer Tom Selten told Mashable. “We think it is necessary to show the world a fuel-free future by making practical solar cars.”

Designed with daily commuting in mind, Stella can cover an astounding 500 miles (over 800 kms) on a single charge. As a demonstration of her range she recently trekked from Los Angeles to San Francisco, her biggest challenge to date, before being shipping back to the Netherlands.

So, how does Stella compare with other prototype solar powered passenger vehicles? Pretty well, as it turns out. Stella competed in and won last year’s Solar World Challenge in the newly created Cruiser Class that encourages advancement of solar vehicle design with real-world applications.

While Stella runs low to the ground for improved aerodynamic efficiency, at a diminutive four-foot in height getting in and out may pose a challenge for taller passengers. Inside the car are some impressive controls and LED displays that gives you the feeling that you’re driving something suitably futuristic.

Although not quite ready for mass production, Stella proves that solar travel is possible and could make the leap from concept to reality sooner than you think.