Dutch solar car manufacturer Lightyear has unveiled the first prototype of a long-range solar production car vehicle, that promises up to 800km of range, and the ability to top up the vehicle’s charge through solar panels integrated into the car’s design.
The prototype, dubbed Lightyear One, was unveiled at the company’s base in Katwijk in the Netherlands and has been dubbed “the electric car that charges itself”.
Lightyear believes it may be possible for owners to drive up to 20,000km in a year in the Lightyear One, with the vehicle able to be self-charged through sunlight alone.
Lightyear has developed a system that allows for the vehicle to self-charge, supplementing the need to use grid electricity, drawing power from five square metres of solar PV modules integrated into the vehicle’s design.
The solar module has been added to the bonnet of the Lightyear One, with another that runs from the car’s roof to its rear.
Combined with the on-board battery, which can be charged by conventional means, the vehicle can feasibly be taken on trips of over 1,000km without needing to be connected to an external source of power.
“Two years of dreaming, thinking and working hard have led to this milestone, which is a giant leap towards achieving our mission of making clean mobility available to everyone,” Lightyear CEO Lex Hoefsloot said.
The vehicle is powered by independent motors on each of the car’s four wheels, providing four-wheel drive, and maximising the amount of energy used by the car that is used to propel the car forwards.
The vehicle’s design is intended to make it ultra energy efficient, with an aerodynamic shape intended to eliminate drag as much as possible, as well as a simplification of the drive-chain and reduction in the car’s overall weight.
“The main goal of the car is to fill in where electric cars fall short. Research has shown that range and the lack of charging options are still the top concerns that people have when considering electric cars,” Hoefsloot added.
“We are solving these issues with what we call ultra-efficiency”
The company also highlighted that the energy efficient design of the vehicle meant that the car was able to achieve fast charge times, even with a standard 230V socket power supply.
Lightyear estimates that the car can gain an additional 400km of range with an overnight charge from a standard home power socket, roughly twice the mileage gain of other electric models.
The Lightyear One also boasts a significant amount of storage space, with the trunk providing over 900 litres of room, and with the rear seats folded this increases to 1400 litres, comparable to most SUVs available on the market.
Lightyear aims to have the first vehicles available in 2020, with the first round of cars available via a leasing option.
One hundred of the Lightyear One vehicles have been pre-ordered, with an additional 500 vehicles available with a reservation fee of €119,000 – just shy of $A200,000.
“Since new technology has a high unit cost, we have to start in an exclusive market; Lightyear One is the first long-range solar car and has staggering specifications. The next models we plan to develop will have a significantly lower purchase price” Hoefsloot said at the launch.
Lightyear has attracted engineering expertise from major European automotive companies, including former employees of Ferrari and Jaguar, growing to a design team of over 130 staff.
Lightyear’s website includes a calculator (noting that at the time of writing, the company’s website appears to have crashed due to traffic driven by the launch!) that allows anyone from all over the world to work out just how many charges they might need according to distance travelled.
For example, if you live in Sydney Australia and drive 10,000km a year, you will only need to charge your car from the grid twice a year.
The company’s name is drawn from the company’s ambition to “have the world drive a light year on solar power by 2035.”
Since launching in 2016, the company has raised more than €15 million in investment, allowing it to open its own factory in Helmond, with the company seeking new investors following the unveiling of the Lightyear One.
Lightyear was founded by former members of Solar Team Eindhoven, winners of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in 2013, 2015 and 2017.
Michael Mazengarb is a journalist with RenewEconomy, based in Sydney. Before joining RenewEconomy, Michael worked in the renewable energy sector for more than a decade.