Lightyear 0 Solar-Powered Car Begins Series Production

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The Lightyear 0 is the production successor to the Lightyear 1 prototype that raised the possibility of an electric car powered by sunlight. (Sono Motors might be watching this story closely.) In an announcement this week, the company says it has officially begun production of its first vehicle, the Lightyear 0, at the Valmet Automotive facility in Finland.

Only one car a week will be built initially as the company plans to gradually scale up production in the first quarter of 2023. Lightyear claims it is the first automotive company to manufacture an electric vehicle that generates power directly from sunlight. After six years of developing its own technologies, it says it has surpassed one of the most challenging phases for new automotive companies — entering the market with novel technology.

“We have hit many milestones in recent years, from major funding achievements to great partnerships. However, today is the most significant, and probably the most challenging, milestone we have reached so far,” says Lightyear CEO Lex Hoefsloot. “Starting production of Lightyear 0, the first solar car, brings us a big step closer to our mission of clean mobility for everyone, everywhere. We may be the first to achieve this, but I certainly hope we aren’t the last.”

Courtesy of Lightyear

The Lightyear 0 is one of the most efficient vehicles to ever begin production. According to Autoweek, it has an ultra-low drag coefficient of 0.175. “Four traction inverters and direct drive-in-wheel motors eliminate the need for energy draining components such as a gearbox and driveshafts. Our drivetrain is not only in pole position for the highest efficiency on the market, it also reduces the number of rotating components for much lower maintenance,” the company says. “In just six years, we have gone from an idea to a definite proof of concept. Within weeks, the first solar cars will be driving on European roads to give the world its first glimpse of clean mobility.”

Total power of the four motors is 170 hp (127 kW). That is modest compared to many EVs available today, but with the low drag and low weight of the car, enough for the needs of most drivers. This is not meant to be a sports car. It is meant to demonstrate how people can drive from place to place with the lowest carbon emissions possible.

The Lightyear 0 uses a 60 kWh battery that weighs a mere 771 pounds. It has one of the highest energy densities of any production car, the company says, and can power the car for a total of 388 miles in the WLTP test cycle. Highway range is said to be 344 miles.

Depending on the amount of sun available during the year, Lightyear says owners can expect to get between 6,000 and 11,000 kilometers (3,728 to 6,835 miles) of range from the sun alone each year. The hood, roof, and hatch are covered in 782 IBC monocrystalline silicon solar cells with a peak solar output of 1.05 kW.

Six years after its founding, the company now has over 500 employees and an established supply chain that includes partners such as Valmet Automotive, Bridgestone, and Koenigsegg. Valmet is a benchmark-setting electric vehicle manufacturer with more than 10 years of experience in EV production and over 50 years of experience producing automobiles for well known carmakers.

“We share Lightyear’s motivation for creating new, more sustainable mobility solutions and are excited to be part of this innovative development in the automotive industry. During the last few years, we have been working closely together to understand Lightyear 0’s technologies and prepare everything for smooth production of the solar electric cars for consumers,” says Olaf Bongwald, CEO of Valmet Automotive.

Courtesy of Lightyear

The company plans to build only 150 Lightyear 0 sedans, which will be priced at $260,000 each — a hefty sum indeed. But it already has a less expensive car on the drawing boards, the Lightyear 2, which will have a smaller battery and less range for the very appealing price of just €30,000. That car is projected to go on sale in late 2024 or early 2025.

When it arrives, the price of the Lightyear 2 may be higher, especially if Vladimir Putin decides to invade other former Soviet countries between now and then. Would you be interested in an inexpensive car that charges itself mostly by sitting in the sun and soaking up rays? We think lots of people would say yes to that proposition.

Featured image courtesy of Lightyear.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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