Up to 11,000 miles per year of driving from just sunlight is what Lightyear promises with its teardrop-shaped, five-passenger car, the Lightyear One. With five square meters of solar panels integrated into the roof and hood, Lightyear estimates the Lightyear One will receive up to 50 miles of charge from a day of sunshine.
Plugging into a 3.7 kW, 22 kW (Public), or a 60 kW (Fast Charging) charger, tops off the batteries to its maximum 725 km (450-mile) range. Efficiency is in their DNA, as the founding members were Bridgestone World Solar Challenge racing champions as part of the Eindhoven University of Technology.
The efficiency is shown in the Lightyear One specification which indicates that it will only consume 83 Wh/km, excluding HVAC. To put this in perspective, the Lightyear One appears to consume half the power for a given number of kilometers traveled as compared to the Nissan Leaf (166 Wh/km).¹
Designing for Efficiency Yields Innovative Features #
Featuring in-wheel motors, it is inherently an all-wheel-drive and drive-by-wire vehicle. In the above interview, Lighyear’s Jonne van Veggel suggests that the basic electric skateboard they are developing for the Lightyear One lends itself to other form factors, such as shared electric vehicles.
Beyond solar and in-wheel motors, it has several cutting edge features, such as cameras that substitute for side-view mirrors and that replace a rear window. These features are for the practical reasons of improving aerodynamics and providing additional surface area for solar panels.
It has all the features one expects, such as a companion app, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, wireless charging pads, and over the air software updates.
Exclusive for Now, Carefree Mobility Later #
Although Viodi happened upon the prototype Lightyear One in a Las Vegas motel parking lot, don’t expect street-legal versions in the United States in their initial rollout. Their first deliveries are expected to be in late 2021 to customers in the EU, Norway, and Switzerland.
And, this exclusive edition lives up to its description, as the purchase price is €150,000 with a limited volume of 946 cars. Lightyear gives these early customers the option to invest in Lightyear and it is clear that these ambassadors have bought into Lightyear’s efficiency/sustainability vision.
Lightyear’s goal is to take what they learn from the initial production run to create higher volume, lower-cost vehicles, and bring energy-efficient, electric mobility to the masses. Perhaps, as van Veggel suggests, Lightyear’s grid independence and all-wheel-drive capability will do more than move people from A to B and will be a basis for adventure. Certainly, with its extreme efficiency and energy harvesting capability, one will not need a light foot in a Lightyear vehicle to drive carefree down the highway.
² [added 01/01/21 – As validation of Lightyear’s approach, Aptera also makes some amazing claims in terms of efficiency for its electric vehicle which they are also aiming to start shipping by the end of the year. They claim a 40-mile range from the integrated solar panels and between 400 to 1,000 miles range with batteries, depending upon the model. It is a bit of an apple and orange comparison as the Aptera and Lightyear vehicles are not identical. It is encouraging, however, that, according to Aptera, they have received $100M in pre-orders since announcing their latest model last month. https://www.aptera.us/post/100-million-in-orders-a-viral-video]
³ [added 07/08/21] And they just announced that they were able to drive 441 miles at 53 MPH using the 60 kWh. This is almost double of a 2021 Nissan Leaf, which is rated at 226 miles for 62 kWh. Lightyear says about 45 miles (or 10%) of that range was generated from the car’s solar panels. The press release indicates that 946 will go into production in the first half of 2022 and they are hoping to address the mass market in 2024. https://lightyear.one/press-releases/lightyears-solar-car-prototype-drives-over-440-miles-on-a-single-battery-charge