EV startup Lightyear unveiled its first solar-powered electric vehicle at an event in the Netherlands this week, called Lightyear 0. The vehicle, which Lightyear describes as production-ready, has a range of 388 miles, 44 miles of which comes from solar power alone. energy.
The Lightyear 0 is the product of six years of research and development by the technical team. That said, it doesn’t look much like the sleek sedan prototype first unveiled by the company in 2019. The specs are a little more down to earth: 588 miles versus the prototype’s 450 miles – but the overall shape and design of the vehicle appear largely unchanged.
The addition of solar panels, which is rare in the automotive industry, is what makes this vehicle stand out. The Lightyear 0 has five square meters (53.8 square feet) of “patented, double-curved solar panels,” which allow the vehicle to recharge itself when driving around or just sitting in the sun. Someone with a daily commute of just under 35 km (21 miles) could potentially drive for months without plugging in the vehicle to charge.
“In climates like the Netherlands it would be two months and in Spain or Portugal even seven months,” says Lightyear.
The Lightyear 0 has a 60 kWh battery pack with four electric motors that deliver 174 horsepower and 1,269 lb-ft of torque. Lightyear says the vehicle will sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in 10 seconds and reach a top speed of 100 km/h – which is certainly less than most electric vehicles on the market – but speed isn’t really the point when you’re looking for something to do. drive a solar-powered car , Turn right?
The interior is predictably minimal but also refined with a nod to sustainability. The materials are all 100 percent vegan, including microfiber upholstery, vegetable leather, fabrics made from recycled bottles, rattan palm wood trim and insulated particle foam. The 10.1-inch central touchscreen runs on Android Automotive, Google’s proprietary operating system also found in a number of Volvo and Polestar vehicles. And the Lightyear 0 features all the other high-tech doodads, such as phone-as-key functionality, wireless software updates, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Using solar cells to power an electric vehicle is no small feat. There’s a huge difference between the amount of solar energy the best cells can capture and what it takes to run a two-ton vehicle fast. But Lightyear seems further than most companies pursuing similar projects. There is a spec sheet! And a production timeline! The company even has a production partner in the Finnish contract manufacturer Valmet Automotive. These are not insignificant milestones.
That said, there is still a long way to go and there is no guarantee that Lightyear will make it to the finish line. The landscape is littered with the corpses of EV startups who have daring intentions for the future, yet succumb to the harsh realities of auto production. In short, making cars is very, very difficult, and Lightyear is not special in pursuing a revolutionary new form factor.
Lightyear isn’t the only company staring at the sun for inspiration. Aptera – a California startup that crashed in the wake of the Great Recession – has recently resurrected and is still joining. German startup Sono Motors is also working on a solar powered electric car† The Mercedes-Benz Vision EQXX concept includes a 117-cell sunroof. And Toyota has promised an optional sunroof for its recently released BZ4X electric SUV.
The company was founded in 2016 by a team of engineers who had competed together in the World Solar Challenge, a race held every few years in the Australian outback that aims to advance the idea of solar-powered cars.
Lightyear says it will make just 946 units, each selling for $250,000 (about $263,262 USD). That high asking price can also be a tough sell. For that money, you could probably buy a premium electric car and install solar panels on your home and have some left. In addition, the higher wattage of your panels can mean that your EV is technically more solar-powered.