Lightyear 0, the solar car that could run for months without recharging, goes into production

The Dutch company Lightyear presented what it says is the world’s first production-ready solar car. The Lightyear 0 is a family sedan with 5 m2 of integrated photovoltaic panels, capable of generating up to 70 km of driving without recharging per day.

After growing its workforce to 500 people and securing agreements with more than 100 suppliers, Lightyear is ready to start manufacturing. His first car is this four-door electric sedan, with enough battery power to deliver 560 km of highway driving at 110 km/h, even without sunshine.

That’s a pretty good number; in WLTP tests, the Lightyear 0 offers 625 km of range, nearly 4% more than Tesla’s Model 3 Long Range AWD.

Lightyear claims to have developed the the most efficient electric powertrain ever, and that these autonomy figures are obtained with a battery of only 60 kWh. For comparison, the Model 3 Long Range AWD offers an 82 kWh package.

So while the WLTP range is well below what the company expected during high-speed testing in February, the Lightyear still enjoys longer range with a significantly smaller battery than the Tesla, using just 10 .5 kWh per 100 km while driving at 110 km/h on the highway.

This is partly due to low aerodynamic drag; Lightyear claims that the 0’s drag coefficient of 0.19 makes it the the most aerodynamic family car ever built.

Another part is due to Bridgestone tires specially designed to reduce rolling resistance.

But it is also a desire for efficiency at the expense of performance: the 0 takes 10 seconds to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h and reaches a top speed of 160 km/h. Tesla taught us to expect blistering acceleration, and the Model 3 Long Range AWD can hit 60 in four seconds on the road at a top speed of 145 mph. Lightyear is not interested in these games. You’ll feel sluggish next to a Tesla.

But it will spend much less time on the charger. Solar panels can’t provide a full battery charge on a sunny day, but they can help, and that’s where Lightyear’s focus on efficiency pays off. Under ideal conditions, the photovoltaic panels covering the bonnet and rear roof can provide up to 1.05 kW of constant charging.

On a summer day, Lightyear claims to be able to do up to 70km of driving. If you add a fully charged battery, Lightyear claims that if the daily commute is less than 50 miles, you can use this device for months and thousands of miles before you need to plug it in.

Solar charging can provide up to 10 km range per hour. On a domestic socket, it will recharge at 32km/h, and will quickly recharge up to 520km/h where the infrastructure is available.

There’s seating for five, plenty of space for luggage, and the vegan interior, made from vegetable-tanned leather, recycled PET bottles and rattan palm tree, is quite nice. There’s a 10.1-inch touchscreen to handle navigation and infotainment, and it all feels comfortable enough.

The Lightyear 0 is also very expensive. Only 946 units will be made, to be delivered from November, and each will cost €250,000 ($266,000). If sold, the company says it will be ready to move forward with a more affordable solar car, with a starting price of €30,000 ($32,000) and an expected production date of early 2025.

Going through light

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