A college project to 450 miles range solar powered car – The journey of Lightyear One

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The Lighyear One solar powered electric car battery lasts longer than the Tesla Model S

Lightyear: Whenever we talk to minimize the carbon footprint due to current transport system, then we have always a lot of technologies and strategies available as an option to work upon. Like- to maximize the use of public transport, vehicle light weighing, improvement in engine technology, fuel substitution, adoption of environment friendly production technologies, hydrogen powered vehicles, battery electric vehicles and also the solar powered vehicle. So, there are a lot of options available.

Now, the fuel cell and the solar technology, both are just into their initial development stage (although the fuel cell vehicles are on the road but in just few numbers only).

Let’s get inside a solar powered car brand’s journey which initially started as a college project and then with time now ready for the production of their full size solar powered car.

The Lightyear

Currently, all cars in the world combined drive one light year, every year. That is 9,500,000,000,000 km every year. This is all powered by fossil fuels. But the “Lightyear” is a Netherlands based technology startup company which aims to accelerate the adoption of electric cars so that by 2030, one light year will have been driven electric.

Lightyear MISSION:
To make clean mobility accessible for everyone, everywhere.

Lightyear One

The Lightyear One is a solar powered electric car first unveiled in June 2019. Again at CES 2020 media got the chance to witness this car where team Lightyear were very excited and confident with their product and for their future plans. The car’s hood and top are completely covered by the efficient photovoltaic energy plates. These plates get energy from the sunlight and stored it into the car battery.

The current expected price of Lightyear One is $170K which is a huge amount of money in real. But the company is also working on the new affordable car project on the same platform.

The Lightyear team

100+ engineers are working on core design and development team. These all have the vast industry experience and many of them have joined from the companies like Ferrari, Tesla, PAL-V, ALPINE, JAGUAR and Land-Rover.

Lightyear One battery specification
Battery: 60kWh
Efficiency: 7.5 miles per kWh or 12km/kWh
Battery range: 725KM (WLTP range)

Lightyear One image gallery (image credit ‘Lightyear’)

Battery range

Well, the Lightyear One will never let you feel the lack of battery range. You can plug is to the power source and it will act as any other plug-in BEV or you have the free solar energy available always to store it into the car battery.

But when we talk about its pure solar power range, then there are some conditions applicable to it because it all depends on the exposure to the sunlight-

  1. If always parked under the direct shiny sunlight: 12000 miles per year.
  2. When parked in tree shade or in garages: 8300 miles per year.
  3. If always parked in cloudier places: 4375 miles per year.

The last but not the least, plugged into a 240V socket (standard in the U.S.) or a DC fast-charging station to charge the battery: 450 miles.

So, still the Lightyear One is far more ahead than the Tesla’s any production car in the market in terms of full battery range.

How will the Lightyear one perform in India?

India is so diversified in terms of its geographical weather. So, for an example, let’s consider the climate of New Delhi. In Delhi, the Lightyear One can get a maximum of 1561 km/month range from sunlight during the favorable weather conditions. For other weathers some details from the official website of Lightyear are below-
Spring: 1577 km/month
Summer: 1249 km/month
Autumn: 936 km/month
Winter: 888 km/month

The History of “Lightyear”

Lightyear company's product and history
Lightyear one history (image credit: Lightyear & STE)

The 26 students from Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) in the Netherlands under the team name “Solar Team Eindhoven” designed and built “Stella– a solar powered family car” in 2013. Later, some of the team students founded a startup company “Lightyear” in 2017 to make that same technology commercially viable. The Lightyear One solar powered car prototype will go into production in 2021.

The ‘Stella’

The ‘Stella’ solar car introductory video (Source: Solar Team Eindhoven)

The Stella was the first solar powered car which car easily accommodates 4 people and run up to 500 miles on the fully charged battery by using the solar energy. In 2014 it was debuted in the US first as the student project car. The Stella won the first award in the World Solar Challenge (travelled 1,875 miles in 40 hours, 14 minutes, achieving a top speed of 74.6 mph).

A great product generally comes from the consistent efforts of like-minded people and their collaborations. Here also the Eindhoven University of Technology and NXP Semiconductors worked together to develop the highly efficient photovoltaic energy system.

Lightyear future plans

To clarify its future plan the lightyear confirms its strategies and plannings in a recent press release-

Milestone in 2020:

In the current year 2020, the Lightyear team will work on its core technologies which makes Lightyear One an ultra-efficient solar car and will also ensure the technology robustness to achieve Lightyear’s competitive edge. The company will also aim to receive the fund to get ready with its production plan scale-up in 2023.

Milestone in 2021:

The company will produce an exclusive series of 946 vehicles- the Lightyear One in 2021. This car will serve as a platform to showcase the maturity of the Lightyear’s innovative technology on a commercial scale.

Other future plans:

The company will focus on technology development, while establishing strategic partnerships towards a significant scale-up in the production of its cars.

Lightyear engineers are working further to make this solar technology more affordable and aiming to achieve higher volume production volume of more than 100000 cars per year by 2023. The projected price of future models would be around 50000 euro.

My Words

The utilization of solar energy as an alternative energy source for any BEVs holds a lot of potential for the future electric vehicles. Companies like Hyundai, Kia and some other like the Motors and Fisker are also working to make this technology more practical and affordable.

The Lightyear has already built a glorious history. The Lightyear’s team part achievements and the prototype model of powerful, reliable and the regular size solar powered Lightyear One stands out the brand name among others

In India, this technology initially can be implemented into the commercial fleet 3 wheelers as we also have a successful journey story of Mr. Naveen Rabelli who covered the full journey from Hyderabad (India) to London in a solar powered Tuk-Tuk.