Earlier this month, we missed an interesting announcement from Lightyear, a company that builds solar cars. But luckily, we can still find footage of the announcement on YouTube, so anyone who missed it can still view the event. In addition, there is now a video with a test drive of the vehicle, so that we can all get a better look at the vehicle!
Lightyear’s Revelation 0
Like many electric vehicles, the Lightyear 0 has its roots in solar car racing. Competitions where cars weave their way through the countryside have long been a staple of engineering training, with vehicles like the GM Impact, which led to the EV1, emerging from the aftermath. So it’s no surprise that such races were mentioned during the reveal. But, it is much harder to build a solar powered car than normal people who don’t want to drive an average of 10-15 miles per hour want to drive.
Hey can’t we all be Wayne Szalinski and tell our bosses we’re late because an unexpected cloud came through and killed our cars (and why didn’t he use the shrink ray to make smaller batteries?).
So like Aptera, Lightyear definitely had an engineering challenge. A car’s roof can only produce a certain amount of power, but Lightyear thought it was worth it because electric vehicles usually add complexity to our lives and make infrastructure difficult. By taking the heat out of the grid and our home‘s power supply, this could end up being a good thing, especially when we’re dealing with climate change and the deployment of EV and EV charging is still too much. slow to get us there. 2040.
But, how much solar driving can someone really do with this production design of the Lightyear 0? Is it enough to keep EVs simple for drivers and for the network?
To get the answer, Lightyear had to take us back to the 2013 World Solar Challenge in Australia. At that time, solar cars were beginning to show that some of their characteristics could even be better than gasoline cars. They didn’t have to stop (even if the speeds weren’t good) while gas-powered cars had to stop to refuel. They developed a concept car in 2016 to show that solar driving was possible, but only if they could keep increasing their efficiency. Today we see what the numbers are.
With a battery charge of 60 kWh, the validation prototype was able to travel 710 km (441 miles). That’s nearly 200 miles more than the Chevy Bolt EV, and with a bit less battery life. So clearly they had found enough efficiency to help offset the limitations of vehicle-mounted solar power. But it was a prototype 18 months ago. The final car is expected to travel around 300 miles per day, max, using a combination of Level 1 (110v) charging and the car’s solar panels.
Now they are at a final design and a vehicle with even better efficiency is headed to production.
The company plans to move to final mass production in stages. They start with a low-volume vehicle that will help them get started, much like Tesla did. This not only puts the cars in the hands of certain customers to spread the word, but it also helps build the company’s foundation and prepare it for the next phase, where everyone can get a solar car.
The car itself looks a lot like other Lightyear designs we’ve seen before (duh), but as usual for the final designs, it looks much more refined and production-ready of some sort. It’s also a road-legal car that ended up hitting the road later in the month (we’ll get to that in a minute).
When the Lightyear 0 cars hit the aisles, they will have 5 square meters of solar cells. They give a figure of up to 70 km of autonomy per day added by the cells. That’s 43 miles in America, and that’s pretty close to what Aptera promises, so it’s not a number completely outside of other industries’ estimates. Much like Aptera, they advertise it as a car that almost never needs to recharge.
Others will be familiar to Aptera fans. To get the efficiency numbers they claim, they had to do what Aptera did, which was to use hub motors to reduce transmission losses. They also made the car very sleek (.19 CD), and it gets 560 km of highway range at 110 km/h (nearly 350 miles at 68 mph). That number doesn’t sound very impressive until you consider it happening on a small package. Heating and cooling are also optimized, using energy from the environment as much as possible. The weight is only 1175 kilos, or about 2500 pounds, which is also a huge help for efficiency.
They showed a spacious interior made from recycled materials, but didn’t tell us much more.
The first delivery is supposed to take place before the end of 2022.
But how does it roll?
Since the reveal, Lightyear has let the Fully loaded show drive the first Lightyear 0.
They took the car for a spin in Spain, which is a great place to source solar power in Europe.
It started in an area that seemed to be set up for press and maybe customers to check out later, so we’re going to have more people on the cars. But, it seems that fully charged loved it, and not just because it’s a break from overdone, inefficient electric SUVs. It’s a $250,000 car, but Lightyear won’t always have such high prices. The goal is to later offer a car closer to the Aptera, priced below $30,000 (with one more wheel and three more seats).
fully charged says the vehicle gives 6 miles per kWh, which isn’t what Aptera promises to achieve, but is a bit more efficient than the average EV. But it is without solar energy. While driving, you can do even better and see exactly what is coming from the car and what is coming from the sun.
The car does not seem to be outdone. They managed to move fast enough to be arrested by the Spanish police. I won’t recap the entire video, but anyone who’s driven an unusual car will tell you that the police might just pull you over for a closer look.
Either way, it looks like a very decent vehicle that should be a lot more compelling once it hits mass production at affordable prices later on.
Featured image by Lightyear.
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