Dutch automotive startup Lightyear has officially lifted the lid on its “production-ready” Lightyear 0 – a solar-powered electric vehicle (EV) capable of running for up to seven months without being connected to a traditional charger.
The product of six years of research and development, the Lightyear 0 features a series of curved solar panels on its roof and hood to complement a small 60 kWh battery pack. That combination gives the car an impressive range of 388 miles (625 km), 44 miles (70 km) of which are derived from solar power alone, according to the company.
Essentially, then, the Lightyear 0 charges itself when exposed to the sun – meaning it can be driven short distances (i.e. travels of less than 44 miles) for months on end before needing to be plugged back into a power source. traditional energy.
Naturally, the amount of energy generated by the car’s solar panels will totally depend on the amount of sun exposure in your region, but “even in climates like the Netherlands”, says Lightyear, “[this time between charges] would be two months and, in Spain or Portugal, up to seven months.”
The company says its “patented dual-curve solar arrays” are optimized to produce up to 11,000 km of energy every year.
However, given its limited battery size, the Lightyear 0 isn’t a particularly stylish car. The aforementioned 60kWh power pack delivers 174 horsepower and 1,269 lb-ft of torque, which in turn guarantees a rather lackluster 0-62mph speed of around 10 seconds. Its speedometer also tops out at 100 mph.
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That said, this isn’t a vehicle with industry-leading performance in mind. Lightyear hopes the promise of such an impressive range will be enough to make potential customers look beyond the premium EVs from Mercedes, Audi and Tesla – although the 0’s price doesn’t help in that regard.
Lightyear says it plans to produce 946 units for the princely sum of €250,000 (about $263,000 / £215,000 / $AU375,000) – you can order one now via official brand website – but for that money, you can grab two top-of-the-line Mercedes EQS EVs, or even three Porsche Taycan 4S sports cars and still have money left.
In our opinion, then, we don’t expect the Lightyear 0 to explode the EV market – but it still sounds like an undeniably exciting innovation that hints at the potentially solar-enhanced future of electric cars.
Analysis: Here comes the sun?
After years of showing off, the auto industry finally appears to be coming together on solar power. Several companies besides Lightyear are currently on the cusp of producing scalable solar-powered vehicles that could soon appear on the roads. mercedesHyundai, Tesla and Toyota, to name just a few of the top brands, are actively developing solar powered models or hybrid versions of them.
The main issues that continue to plague the deployment of these vehicles include the difficulty of manufacturing safe, reliable and cost-effective modules for vehicular integration, as well as the reduction of energy generation caused by inclement weather and other obstacles (consider the number of buildings, bridges, trees and tunnels that block roof-based panels).
Lightyear, however, sought to mitigate these problems by focusing on efficiency over performance. The Lightyear 0 is a car designed for everyday use, and under ideal conditions its solar panels can reportedly get around 1.05 kW from constant charging.
Of course, we’ll have to wait until the car itself hits the road before judging whether this trade-off between range and performance is worth it. Lightyear says the first orders for the Lightyear 0 will be delivered as early as November 2022, so we’ll keep our eyes peeled for more news.