The best tech for 2014 is getting its just desserts at the 8th Annual Crunchies right now, and Best Technology Achievement is one of the categories that reflects true excellence in a field where it’s easy to identify standouts. This year’s winner is Stella, whose four-seat, solar-powered car won the World Solar Challenge and is designed to be a functional family vehicle instead of a tech demo or high-speed racer.
Stella’s car uses a roof-mounted solar panel that can provide enough power to move the car 500 miles on a full charge of the battery, which is considerably more than the max mileage of a Tesla Model S. Stella is the product of a team-up between the Eindhoven University of Technology and NXP Semiconductors, and it actually manages to produce twice the energy it consumes through its photovoltaic energy system.
Not only was Stella a showcase for clean energy, it was also a means to demonstrate new vehicle-to-vehicle communications systems that could eventually allow cars to work together to determine the best speeds to drive in order to keep traffic moving efficiently.
Stella’s crowning achievement in 2014 was making the trek up Highway 1 between L.A. and San Francisco, producing zero emissions along the way.
Runner-up this year was Apple Pay, a very different technological achievement but one that’s no less likely to become truly disruptive. Apple’s mobile payments play debuted this year with a software update released in October for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. It quickly became one of the most-used electronic payment methods on the market, with new financial institutions and retail partners coming on board all the time.