Netherlands-based tech company Lightyear has released two Lightyear Research vehicles to test a new type of solar technology for its own EV, Lightyear One, which is a beautiful blend of an electric powertrain and solar. This integrated solar technology will literally be going on the road, and if all goes to plan, the company will be producing these by the end of 2021.
What Are Lightyear Research Vehicles?
These research vehicles are a Tesla Model 3 (featured image in video above) and a VW Crafter LCV (light commercial vehicle). Both now have been a solar roof integrated in place of their original roofs. If you are in the Helmond area, you may see these two vehicles driving around town.
These vehicles aim to demonstrate the added value of integrated solar cells on vehicles. As they drive around, they will be measuring solar yield and providing real-world data on things such as vibration impact, shock absorption, and water resistance. In order for the product to be completely reliable, durable, and safe, this research is necessary.
In order to acquire Research Vehicle 006, which is the Model 3, Lightyear collaborated with Lease Plan, Mijndomein, and DSM. This was the first pilot project to happen under the joint development agreement that was signed by Lightyear with DSM.
Lightyear developed its signature solar technology as an entry into the World Solar Challenge. It includes the goals of maximizing three critical points in design:
- Cell coverage
Each is “seamlessly and aesthetically integrated,” the company notes in its blog post. Lightyear was able to achieve this by teaming up with SunPower and integrating its Maxeon solar cells onto Royal DSM’s conductive back sheet technology. Royal DSM is a company specializing in nutrition, health, and sustainable living, and Lightyear recently partnered with DMN to collaborate on the development of a high-growth business case for the solar vehicle market.
By then end of 2020, Lightyear hopes to release Research Vehicle 007, which will be a validation prototype that features the integration of Lightyear’s solar, in-wheel motor, and battery technology combined. 007 will also be developed on a native solar electric vehicle platform that is optimized for energy efficiency. The goal will be to show the world Lightyear’s signature sauce along with its battery management system, in-wheel motors, inverters, and improvements over regular EV platforms.
Its own vehicle, Lightyear One, was designed with 5 square meters of integrated solar cells within safety glass “so strong that a fully grown adult can walk on them without causing dents.” When it comes to charging the vehicle, one can charge up to 570 km (354 mi) worth of energy within an hour with a simple 230V outlet. The vehicle is able to drive up to 725 km (this depends on your environment), and as you drive, the car gets an additional 12 km/h (7.5 mph) of range from the added solar roof and hood during daylight exposure.
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