“The automotive industry has to change course. Every year, all cars travel 9,460,000,000,000 kilometers powered by fossil fuels. Are so many. Indeed, it is a light year. Our goal is to make the world travel a light year with solar energy by 2035 “: this is how Lex Hoefsloot, co-founder and CEO of Lightyear which has just launched the solar electric car explains that:”Electric cars are a step in the right direction, but they have a scalability problem. By 2030, we can expect 84 million electric vehicles (EVs) on the roads of Europe alone.
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A visionary. Obvious. But also a person with his feet on the ground because his startup has just opened the online orders for the first production car that is powered by solar panels. “There is no need to hide – continues Hoefsloot – access to Charging stations will not keep up with the demand for electric cars. To minimize recharges and maximize battery life, the industry’s strategy so far has been to add batteries. This increases the carbon footprint of production and, in turn, increases the weight and the need for high-powered charging stations ”.
Hence the idea. “Our strategy – he explains – reverses this approach. Lightyear 0 offers more range with fewer batteries, reducing weight and CO2 emissions per vehicle. The optimized solar roof and holistic design mean that the car can travel for weeks, even months, without being recharged”.
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Translated into practice, with this car in cloudy climates, based on an average distance of about 35 kilometers per day, it is possible to drive for up to two months before having to think about charging. In the sunniest countries, it can go up to seven months. Of course, there is a defect (not recently), the car costs 250 thousand euros. But that’s just the beginning. Costs are set to drop dramatically in a short time.
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But that of solar panels (by the way, the slogan is “For Lightyear 0, autonomy does not begin and does not end with the power sockets. The sun is its source“) Is not the only idea of this machine: in designing it, a possible use” from below “was taken into account:” With our technology – explain the engineers – any socket in the world becomes a charging station. Connected to a normal household power socket, Lightyear 0 it is able to recharge 32 kilometers of autonomy per hour or over 300 km of autonomy during the night “. In short, an attempt was made to produce a car much less dependent on sockets and cables.
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Of course, then there are the 22 kW recharges, the fast ones like all other electric cars. But what struck the mobility world a few days ago at the official launch was the fact that the car was designed to achieve maximum autonomy and efficiency where it matters most, in everyday life. This meant creating a car with a lightweight battery pack, capable of maximizing energy density per kilogram of weight (60 kWh in 350 kg). An unconventional approach that paid off in the first tests, when the Lightyear 0 series model traveled 560km at highway speed on a single charge.
And then the five square meters of patented double-curved solar panels on the roof and on the hood of the car make the difference: they allow Lightyear 0 to recharge itself and, in summer, to completely cover the average commute. There is also the world record in aerodynamics (CX of 0.19just for reference, the best cars on the market reach 0.29), but also the record of energy efficiency: the amount of energy that is dispersed through heat is the lowest in the world.
The interiors are very interesting, all vegan and with recycled and ethically sourced materials: the leather is of vegetable origin, i fabrics are made with recycled PET bottles, the wooden decorative elements are crafted from sustainably refurbished rattan palms and the suede is also made of eco-friendly and breathable microfiber. While the exterior panels of the car body are made with recycled carbon, i.e. residual carbon fiber materials that would otherwise go to waste. That’s why the Lightyear costs so much: it’s a car for pioneers.
From a technical point of view, the traction is integral (Awd), thanks to the four independently controlled internal motors on the wheels, while the considerable ground clearance of 183 mm (like that of an SUV) also guarantees the car off-road capability and important dimensions (length of 5083, width of 1972 and height of 1445 m) an abundant space for five people and a trunk of 640 liters. The declared autonomy is 625 km (Wltp cycle) and 560 km traveling at 110 km / h: from the solar panels comes an additional range of 70 km. Which in one year of exposure to sunlight becomes 11,000 km.
The battery pack? From 60 kWh while the acceleration is not supercar: 0 – 100 km / h in 10 seconds and the maximum speed limited to 160 km / h, another sustainable choice. According to Lightyear technicians, “the most efficient electric cars on the market today consume about 50% more energy than our car”. the Dutch, instead of focusing on useless acceleration records, are betting everything on reducing energy consumption per kilometer in order to provide a lot of autonomy with a small battery. Simple but ingenious, also because it is a road that in fact no one takes … So much, it must be said, that even following this strategy, electric cars always start well.