Solar-powered Lightyear just around corner

Riley Riley

One of the great drawbacks of electric vehicles is their lack of range, at least those available now.

Range anxiety is the term applied to the fear an electric car will run out of charge and that the driver will be left stranded.

But what if that car in question was powered from solar panels on the roof and had power to burn — in theory at least?

Dutch company Lightyear is on the verge of making that dream a reality with the Lightyear One, a solar powered car that is set to go on sale later this year.

Bonnet, roof and boot are clad with 5 sq m of solar panels and deliver a WLTP range of 725km, which means drivers will be able to travel up to 20,000km per year on the power of the sun — in other words free!

Lightyear One can be plugged in and recharged just like other electric cars, but the solar panels add 12km of range for every 60 minutes of use.

The groundwork for the Lightyear One was laid during the Bridgestone-sponsored World Solar Challenge, a 3000km race across the Australian Outback that pushes the limits of technological innovation and solar-powered mobility.

The car is currently on sale now in Europe, with first customer deliveries expected before the end of the year.

The car is a large, five-seat hatchback in design, with all-wheel drive, courtesy of four in-wheel electric hub motors powered by a low-mounted battery.

The fast-growing company was founded in 2016 and currently employs more than 140 employees, made up of a mix of young talent and experience from the automotive industry, including former employees of Tesla, Audi, McLaren and Ferrari.

Research shows 50 per cent of European drivers consider buying a fully electric vehicle, but 37 per cent are still skeptical about doing so due to concerns about efficiency and limited range.

Lightyear One addresses these concerns head on by offering an unprecedented range of 725km, while being up to three times more energy-efficient versus alternative electric vehicles currently on the market.

The vehicle is charged directly by the sun through a large solar roof, minimising CO2 emissions and the charging needs of the user while maximising efficiency.

To achieve this incredible performance, Lightyear has pushed the boundaries of current technology, designing a vehicle that boasts the best aerodynamic coefficient of any production car to date through substantial gains in many different areas of vehicle design.

Bridgestone has been brought on board to desire the tyres for Lightyear One.

It’s designed a tyres with very low rolling resistance and weight reduction, in order to preserve battery life, maximise range and reduce environmental impact.

In addition, silica dispersion has been improved by applying a new mixing technology, with a 10 per cent overall reduction in the tyre weight per vehicle, without any compromise in mileage and grip.

The very low rolling resistance of the tyres also means Lightyear One can benefit from a lighter battery.

Time Magazine acknowledged Lightyear One as one of the ‘100 best inventions’ of 2019.


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