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Solar-powered electric vehicle may go months without charge

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Yours at the asking price of $25 million.

(Image credit: Lightyear)

The Lightyear 0 – a solar-powered electric vehicle (EV) capable of driving for up to seven months without being connected into a standard charger – has been formally unveiled by Dutch automotive firm Lightyear.

On its top and hood sits an array of solar panels that are curved in order to compliment a 60kWh battery pack that was developed over six years of research and development. It has a range of 388 miles (625 kilometres), with 44 miles (70 kilometres) of it coming from solar power alone, according to the manufacturer.

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Because it recharges itself when exposed to sunlight, the Lightyear 0 may be driven for months at a time without having to be connected back into a conventional power source.

Lightyear states that “even in locations such as the Netherlands,” “[this period between charges] would be two months and, in Spain or Portugal, as much as seven months” depending on how much sunlight hits the car’s solar panels.

(Image credit: Lightyear)

The business claims that their “patented, double-curve solar arrays” can provide up to 11,000 kilometres of power each year, which is a significant amount.

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However, the Lightyear 0 isn’t a very fast automobile because of its little battery. While the 60kWh battery pack provides it with 174 horsepower and 1,269 lb-ft of torque, the 0-62mph time of roughly 10 seconds isn’t very impressive. The maximum speed indicated by the speedometer is 100 mph.

This, however, isn’t a car that aims to be the best in the business.. While Mercedes, Audi, and Tesla are all known for their high-end electric vehicles, Lightyear hopes that its outstanding range would entice buyers away from their more expensive counterparts.

Despite Lightyear’s claims that it will build 946 units at a cost of €250,000 (roughly $263,000 / £215,000 or AU$375,000), the brand’s official website says that for that price, you could buy two Mercedes EQS EVs or three Porsche Taycan 4S sports cars and still have money to spare. Lightyear is currently accepting orders for the vehicle on its official website.

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As such, the Lightyear 0 isn’t expected to revolutionise the EV industry, but it still seems like an interesting breakthrough that points to the future of solar-enhanced EVs.

Analysis: Here comes the sun?

Automotive manufacturers now seem to be getting serious about solar power after years of bluster. In addition to Lightyear, a number of other businesses are now in the process of developing scalable solar-powered vehicles that may soon be seen on the roads. Just a few of the world’s most popular car manufacturers are working on solar-powered or hybrid cars.

(Image credit: Lightyear)

Problems persisting with the spread of these vehicles include the difficulty in producing modules that are both safe and cost-effective, and poor weather and other barriers that reduce power output (consider the number of buildings, bridges, trees, and tunnels that block roof-based panels).

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In order to address these difficulties, Lightyear has opted to focus on efficiency rather than performance. Lightyear 0’s solar panels are capable of generating 1.05 kW of trickle charging in optimum conditions, according to the manufacturer.

Of course, we won’t be able to gauge the value of this trade-off between range and performance until the car is actually on the road. First deliveries of the Lightyear 0 are expected to begin in November 2022, so we’ll keep an eye out for additional information.

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