Could Lightyear One Be the First Commercial Solar-Powered Car?

A prototype of the long-range EV was unveiled today

Lightyear One Solar Powered Electric Car
Lightyear One, the "first long-range solar car," debuted today in the Netherlands.

Two years ago almost to the day, we reported on Lightyear, a Dutch company that promised a solar-powered car with a range of up to 500 miles on one charge. And they promised it’d begin production in 2019.

Well, it’s 2019, and this week they unveiled Lightyear One, the self-proclaimed “first long-range solar car.” It looks futuristic, but practical. There’s video, not only photos. And it just about makes good on the promises. 

At a launch event in the Netherlands on Tuesday, the Lightyear team announced the official specs: a range up to 800 km (just over 497 miles) on one charge, the ability to charge its smaller-than-average battery around 400 km per night from 230V sockets, and solar charging up to 12 km (7.46 miles) per hour. As TechCrunch writes, that kind of range is “definitely a first for a car powered by solar and intended for the actual consumer market.”

But wait, these supposedly revolutionary solar panels only add 12 km of range per hour at best? Does that sound meager to anyone else? 

Let’s do the numbers: If the car has its maximum 497-mile charge and you’re on a straight shot road trip averaging 60 miles per hour, and the solar panels are charging at 7.46 miles per hour, you get somewhere around 70 miles of charge in one go from the solar. In other words, this is more of a solar-enhanced EV, rather than a “solar car” as you might otherwise be led to believe. 

That’s not to say this isn’t revolutionary. Lightyear is developing this technology to try and make electric cars more accessible, as “solar cars” would bypass the need for costly charging infrastructure and assuage driver fears about not having sufficient range. 

To achieve this goal, they’ll need to keep fine-tuning Lightyear One (ok, maybe overhauling) and to do that, they’ll need funding. You can help by buying one of the first models of Lightyear One. The company says they’ve already sold over 100, but reservations are available for another 500 units with production slated for 2021. The cost? About $135K.

Just think of it like a super expensive Kickstarter with amazing rewards.

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