A long-time startup building solar powered vehicles has finally matured beyond the testing stage to a fully working solar energy driven car. Lightyear, known for Stella and Stella Lux to date, will add a new name to the portfolio – Lightyear One. And it is safe to say that this new solar powered car has astonished everyone and not just because it runs on solar energy. There have been similar working prototypes in the past. This ‘One’, puts even the best of electric cars to shame when it comes to its range – a whopping 725 km (WLTP) on a single charge!
Lex Hoefsloot, CEO and co-founder of Lightyear, initiated the unveiling with the challenge at hand: “all the cars in the world combined, drive about 9.5 trillion kilometres per year and most of them are combustion cars.” Even though the world is aiming for battery electric vehicles to change that, the team at Lightyear has been gunning for a purely solar-run vehicle since more than half a decade now.
The result of Lightyear’s work has been embodied in Lightyear One now. The team came up with new and improved solar cells for the vehicle, which now claim to charge the battery of the car up to a cool 12 km of range every hour as per the company. Not that the battery is too much dependent on it, having a range of 725 km on its own. The solar panels have also been covered with safety glass for protection.
As for its drivetrain, the Lightyear One uses four electric motors to accelerate from 0 to 100 kmph in 10 seconds. This has been coupled to advanced torque vectoring for better performance. Other features include Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, a dedicated companion app as well as OTA update support for future additions.
Worth the hype?
This is not the first time that solar energy is being targeted to power a vehicle. This is, however, the first time the concept is being considered as a viable solution to the prevalent mobility issues, possibly on a worldwide scale. Lightyear One is living testimony to the possibilities in the future of transportation.
The unveiling of Lightyear One reminded us of Tesla’s initiation, back when Elon Musk proudly proclaimed that electric cars will be superior to their IC engine counterparts in every essence. Not many believed the tech-entrepreneur back then. It was only after a decade later that the company would gain such a stronghold in the automobile market that it would force the auto giants to turn their focus towards electric vehicles.
Lightyear was founded by a group of former University of Eindhoven students. The team had earlier managed to win the World Solar Challenge with its Stella solar cars. Astonishingly, the cars generated more energy than they actually consumed while on the run, meaning anyone driving them was left with more charge by the end than they started with.
If the team is now able to replicate it in the global transportation scenario, this might just turn out to be the best energy source ever used for the cause. But then, a solid argument can be made on the fact that such solar panels can be installed anywhere. Why not just have them on the roof of your house and power other household things as well. And of course, the solar panels can even help when the car needs to be charged. Chuck that, you can actually come up with solar powered charging stations for ALL the electric cars in a region. Why not, right?
So in the midst of such a reasoning, Lightyear’s success with the One will depend on one crucial factor – price. For now, the vehicle is expected to be launched around the mark of $170,000. That is around $70,000 costlier than the costliest Tesla Model S (that even comes with the Ludicrous mode). But then, the Lightyear One will also offer double the range on the Tesla vehicle. Worth the price difference? Only time will tell.
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Author: Sarthak Dogra
Image Credit: Lightyear