Organic photovoltaic cells are now approaching commercially viable efficiencies, particularly for applications that make use of their unique potential for flexibility and semitransparency. However, their reliability remains a major concern, as even the most stable devices reported so far degrade within only a few yearsThis has led to the belief that short operational lifetimes are an intrinsic disadvantage of devices that are fabricated using weakly bonded organic materials—an idea that persists despite the rapid growth and acceptance of organic light-emitting devices, which can achieve lifetimes of several million hours. Here we study an extremely stable class of thermally evaporated single-junction organic photovoltaic cells. We accelerated the ageing process by exposing the packaged cells to white-light illumination intensities of up to 37 Suns. The cells maintained more than 87 per cent of their starting efficiency after exposure for more than 68 days. The degradation rate increases superlinearly with intensity, leading to an extrapolated intrinsic lifetime, T80, of more than 4.9 × 107 hours, where T80 is the time taken for the power conversion efficiency to decrease to 80 per cent of its initial value. This is equivalent to 27,000 years outdoors. Additionally, we subjected a second group of organic photovoltaic cells to 20 Suns of ultraviolet illumination (centred at 365 nanometres) for 848 hours, a dose that would take 1.7 × 104 hours (9.3 years) to accumulate outdoors. No efficiency loss was observed over the duration of the test. Overall, we find that organic solar cells packaged in an inert atmosphere can be extremely stable, which is promising for their future use as a practical energy-generation technology.