Lightyear, a Dutch automotive startup, has lifted the lid on its “production ready” Lightyear 0, a solar-powered electric car (EV) that can run for up to seven years without needing to be plugged into a conventional charger.
Six years of research and development went into the Lightyear 0, which features a series curved solar panels that are mounted on the roof and hood. It also includes a 60kWh battery pack. According to the company, this combination provides the car with an impressive 388 miles (625km), 44 miles (70km), and a small 60kWh battery pack.
The Lightyear 0 can charge itself by being exposed to sunlight, meaning that it can be driven short distances (i.e. You can commute for less than 44 miles, and it will charge itself over time before you need to plug it back into an electrical outlet.
The amount of solar power generated by your car’s panels will depend on how much sun is in your area. However, Lightyear states that “even in climates like the Netherlands, this time between charges would be two to seven months, and in Spain or Portugal as long as seven months.”
According to the company, its double-curve solar arrays are patented and optimized to produce up to 11,000km of power per year.
The Lightyear 0’s battery is small, so it’s not a very fast car. It is powered by a 60kWh battery, which gives it 174 horsepower and 1,269lb-ft torque. This results in a mediocre 0-62mph time of just 10 seconds. The speedometer is also at 100 mph.
This vehicle isn’t designed to be an industry-leading performer. Lightyear hopes that potential customers will look beyond the premium EVs like Tesla, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi with this impressive range. However, the 0’s high price won’t hurt its case.
Lightyear claims it will produce 946 units at a princely sum of EUR 250,000 (around £263,000 / PS215,000 / US375,000). You can order one now through the brand’s website. However, for that amount, you could buy two Mercedes EQS EVs or three Porsche Taycan 4S sports cars.
We don’t think the Lightyear 0 will blow up the EV market, but it sounds like an exciting innovation that hints towards a solar-enhanced future for electric cars.
Analysis: The sun is shining!
The automotive industry seems to finally be embracing solar power after years of showboating. Lightyear is not the only company that is working to produce scalable solar-powered vehicles. Mercedes and Toyota are all actively working on solar-powered models, or hybrids, of their vehicles.
These main problems continue to hinder the rollout. They include the difficulty of manufacturing safe, reliable and cost-effective vehicle-integration modules, as well the reduction in power generation due to bad weather (consider the number and types of buildings, bridges and trees that block roof-based panels).
Lightyear, however, has emphasized efficiency over performance to address these problems. The Lightyear 0 car is designed for daily use and can supposedly generate around 1.05 kW of continuous trickle charging under ideal conditions.
We’ll need to wait until the car is on the road before we can make a decision about whether the trade-off between performance and range is worthwhile. Lightyear claims that the first Lightyear 0 orders will be fulfilled as soon as November 2022. We’ll be keeping our fingers crossed for further information.