The Dutch start-up Lightyear will launch its first electric car this year with solar cells in the body. According to Lex Hoefsloot, co-founder of the company, the car was developed from the start to reduce energy consumption and has a smaller and lighter battery, which allows other parts, such as the engine, to also be lighter.
In an interview with Wirtschaftswoche, co-founder Lex Hoefsloot discussed the company’s plans. A German competitor has also appeared.
When asked why the first mass-produced solar car came from a start-up and not a traditional automaker, Hoefsloot replied that the automotive industry had not been interested in this type of vehicle since. long time. It is not enough to mount a few photovoltaic cells on the roof, he said. The whole vehicle must be developed from scratch to reduce energy consumption. Lightyear was motivated enough to try. Established manufacturers would fall back on their existing car designs.
In conventional electric cars, the drive battery drives the weight. Lightyear’s starting point, he says, is to install a smaller, lighter battery. If the car doesn’t have to move that much weight on its own, other parts such as the engine might also be lighter.
“And we cut everything to make it more efficient, from the transmission to the inverter for the solar cells.Hoefsloot explained. The low air resistance is also very important, which is why the 0 has cameras instead of side mirrors, for example. No other production car is as aerodynamic as Lightyear’s first car..
The start-up only builds the sunroofs for the vehicles of 0 customers; the vehicle itself is manufactured by Finnish manufacturer Valmet Automotive. They try to outsource as much as possible, says Hoefsloot.
“But for solar roofs, which are curved in two directions, we have not found a suitable partner. There is also a strategic consideration behind the decision to take over production.“. Lightyear also wants to build solar roofs for others in the future and is already in contact with major automakers.
Munich-based Sono Motors is pursuing a similar concept with solar cells for its Sion electric minibus. The model, which as it stands will launch much later, in 2024, will cost just under 30,000 euros, while the Lightyear costs 250,000 euros. However, the Dutch company is also planning a consumer solar electric vehicle, with an expected price tag of €30,000 to be launched in 2025.
If Sono Motors manages to start production, it will be an important signal to the market that affordable solar cars can be made. Now we do the opposite, simply because we want to learn from small-scale production first.
Lightyear and Sono are in the same boat, he said, with some companies aiming to push solar cars out of the market.
Lightyear wants to score points not only with durability, but also by making its vehicles cheaper and more comfortable. Above all, Hoefsloot claims that solar cars could solve the two big problems of electric mobility: low autonomy and the lack of development of charging infrastructure. “I am convinced that solar cars will become the norm in ten to fifteen years: the advantages are simply captivating“.