Solar panels on electric vehicles (EVs) are an obvious fix to one of the biggest problems that come from ditching petrol – range anxiety and the inability to get juice without hooking up to your nearest electric vehicle charger. The solution could lie in creating a solar panel that’s efficient enough to actually give you a reasonable amount of range.
The Lightyear 0 is here to change all that. It’s no dreamy concept car – developed by Netherlands-based tech company Lightyear, the EV is road-legal, with early deliveries promised by November this year after an intensive six-year development cycle.
What makes it different from your pre-existing Teslas and Polestars is its patented five-sqm solar arrays on the Lightyear 0’s exteriors. According to the company’s press release, these panels can add “70 kilometres of range per day” (assuming optimal conditions) onto the car’s respectable estimated 625km range.
This means that drivers who use the car for their daily commute – projected in the company’s illustration at 35km – wouldn’t even need to charge their vehicles for months. This could last anywhere from two months in the Netherlands, to a whopping seven in Spain or Portugal.
Designed to be plugged into a regular home socket
Caveats apply, of course. Most of their calculations assumed summer months and reasonably sunny weather throughout. In Singapore, which is most sunny with temperatures reaching into the high thirties, this might lower the efficiency of the solar panels
But that’s fine, since the Lightyear 0 is also designed to be plugged into a regular home socket – no charging station necessary, says the brand who dubs this flexibility ‘grid independence’. According to the brand, you’re still able to eke out 300km of range on an overnight charge from the same socket you’d use to charge your smartphone.
The car’s bodywork and interiors are also a reflection of the brand’s sustainability-forward philosophy. Think an outer shell made from reclaimed carbon fibre protecting an interior swathed in vegan-friendly leather, fabrics made from upcycled bottles and wooden detailing a la restructured palm.
The Lightyear 0 is no Model X Plaid – its century sprint is more like a jog with a casual 10-second run-up that’s over three times of the Plaid’s. It also boasts a modest top-end speed of 160kmh. But that’s understandable, since this five-seater workhorse is a different beast.
Says Lightyear’s CEO and co-founder Lex Hoesloot during the vehicle’s launch last month: “Today is the day we’ve all been waiting for since us five co-founders sat in a kitchen sketching out our dream of building the most sustainable car on the planet. In 2016, we only had an idea; three years later, we had a prototype. Now, after six years of testing, iterating, (re)designing, and countless obstacles, Lightyear 0 is proof that the impossible is actually possible.”
Close to 950 introductory Lightyear 0’s will be produced later this year at a cost of €250,000 ($360,000), but the company plans to release a high-volume accessible car in late 2024 that’ll cost less than a fifth of that number.