The world’s first long-range solar car unveiled

Dutch tech company Lightyear, a spin-off company of the Technical University of Eindhoven, introduced the first long-range solar car this morning in Katwijk, the Netherlands.

Solar cars are best known for the annual solar car race in Australia. Most of these cars are small and designed solely for the race, not to take your family on vacation. About six years ago, students from the Technical University Eindhoven built a solar car that seated 4 people, making it the first solar family car. Lightyear was founded in 2016 by alumni of the Solar Team Eindhoven.

Just two years later, Lightyear was able to present its car meant for personal use to the public. The car has been designed from scratch, “following not convention but only the laws of physics”. The goal of the car is to fill in where electric cars fall short. Being used to cars that use diesel or petrol, many people are squeamish to transfer to electric cars because of something called “range anxiety”. While electric cars are getting more and more range, people tend to fear it is not enough. Plus, charging an electric car takes a lot longer than filling up a tank.

The Lightyear One, as the first car is called, tackles this problem thanks to the integrated solar panels in the roof and on the hood of the car. The panels, five square metres (54 square feet) in total, are cast in safety glass strong enough that a fully-grown adult can walk over them without causing dents. On a sunny day, the car charges 60 to 80 kilometres (40-50 miles) without having to plug in the car. The vehicle can be charged at a (fast)charging station or even a regular outlet, and has a range of up to 800 kilometres (500 miles).

“All of the charging options out there become easier to use because you get a lot more range for the same amount of energy charged,” Lex Hoefsloot, CEO and co-founder of Lightyear says. “So effectively, you charge a lot faster from any power outlet. You can charge up to 400 km (250 miles) per night from ordinary 230V sockets. That’s great for road trips because you don’t need charging infrastructure.”

The car is designed to be ultra-efficient. It has an aerodynamic design, and the motor is integrated in the wheels so that no energy is lost in transit from engine to the wheels. The vehicle is made with high-tech materials to have the lowest weight as possible while maintaining stringent passenger safety.

Lightyear will be ramping up production of the Lightyear One in 2021. The first 100 cars have already been reserved.

Lightyear has been nominated for several awards, the latest of which is the Creative Heroes Awards, which will be handed out this Thursday.

Images: Lightyear