The idea of combining solar panels and electric vehicles isn’t new, but the implementation has been difficult. To get enough solar power to power the car, you have to have a large area covered in the panels, but that hasn’t led to very attractive designs. Plus, the fragility of solar panels has hampered actually being able to use them on a vehicle. Lightyear has a new design for an electric car that uses electric panels that actually still looks like a car, instead of solar panels on wheels.
Of course, saying that the car is powered by solar panels is a bit misleading. True, the car does feature solar panels built into its roof and hood, but those solar panels only charge the car’s battery at a rate of up to 12 km of range per hour. Lightyear claims that their solar panels are 20 per cent more efficient than traditional solar cells, but 12 km per hour doesn’t make one’s heart beat more rapidly.
So let’s look at a stat that will make your heart thump at a quicker pace. Lightyear claims that their car will get 450 miles of range from its built-in battery. That’s an 80-mile improvement of the industry-leading Tesla Model S, which gets around 370 miles of range.
You won’t have to rely solely on the solar panels to charge the Lightyear vehicle. It can be charged using traditional plug-in means. It also supports 60kW of fast charging. It also uses four electric motors, and has plenty of acceleration, hitting 100 km per hour in just ten seconds.
The idea for the car came from a group of former students at the University of Eindhoven. These students were actually responsible for the Stella solar cars, which won the World Solar Challenge race in 2013, 2015, and 2017. The Stella cars were able to produce more power than they used thanks to their solar panels—with that kind of a track record, you can expect improvement on their prototype.
The Lightyear One cars can be reserved now for around USD$135,000, with a starting price of USD$170,000 when the cars actually go into production.