The Lightyear 0 project has just moved from the prototype phase to the production phase. This car, which can run on solar energy, surprises with its design and performance. Is this really the very first solar car?
In its approach, the Lightyear brand wants to eliminate the two biggest concerns of today’s electric cars: charging and autonomy. By combining solar cells with the good efficiency of its model, presented on June 9, 2022, Lightyear advertises up to 11,000 km traveled with solar energy alone.
The first solar cell model of Light years, named Lightyear 0, can be ordered. It is a top model that in 2024-2025 will pave the way for a more affordable model, which will be called Lightyear Two. If you’re wondering why we’re going from 0 to 2, it’s because Lightyear One has already been taken by the brand’s first prototype.
What should we remember from the presentation of Lightyear 0?
Lightyear 0 is a rather large 5-door model, over 5 meters long. Despite generous dimensions, its weight on the weight is contained with only 1,575 kg. It must be said that the model is built of recycled carbon fiber elements, which allows it to lighten its structure, but not its price. This weight combined with a machined aerodynamics provides a particularly efficient model.
Lightyear 0 has 4 motors located at the wheels and offers a maximum power of 130 kW. Although the car can reach 160 km / h, the model is not intended to be a sports car. Like its 0 to 100 km / h in 10 seconds, this result places it behind a Fiat 500 electric or a Renault Zoé in pure acceleration.
The car has a 60 kWh electric battery. But it is the 5 m² of solar cells that make the specificity of this model.
Solar or electric car with solar range extender?
Lightyear 0 is presented as ” the world’s first solar car », But this appellation seems to be a language abuse. Because if Lightyear 0 can run thanks to solar energy, its autonomy also depends on its 60 kWh electric battery.
Under the best conditions, namely in a country with strong sunlight, the car can drive up to 70 km a day thanks to solar energy. The solar cells installed on the vehicle can regain up to 10 km of autonomy per. sunshine hour. This could allow some users to ride only thanks to the sun, based on daily trips of an average of 35 km per day.
In its calculations, the brand explains that a driver living in the Netherlands could spend 2 months of his daily trips in the summer without having to charge the vehicle at an electrical outlet or a charging station. For a driver living in Portugal, this can mean up to 7 months without recharging. The mark indicates that the vehicle could then drive up to 11,000 km during the year thanks to solar energy.
The range of the electric battery in Lightyear 0 is 625 km WLTP and 560 km on the highway at 110 km / h. This result is already a good efficiency performance because it represents an average consumption of 10.5 kWh / km, which reminds us of the good results of the Mercedes EQXX concept.
The energy generated by solar energy is the icing on the cake of an efficient model designed to eliminate the fear of power outages. But Lightyear is not the first model to want to take advantage of the Sun to increase the autonomy of its vehicles. The rechargeable Toyota Prius or the next Fisker Ocean, as well as other manufacturers, have also integrated solar panels on the roofs of their electrified models to increase their autonomy. In these cases, they are not solar cells.
Lightyear’s approach to removing certain obstacles associated with charging infrastructure is commendable. It is still necessary that the model can really make the most of the sunshine: impossible to park your car in a garage under these circumstances. It is not certain that the owners of a vehicle sold for € 250,000 are ready to leave their vehicle on the streets of Europe. The context is certainly a little different in other regions like California or Australia, where this approach is gaining its full significance.
Finally, the debate over the concept of “solar car” is still unresolved. An electric car owner charging using solar panels installed on the roof of his home could also say he has a solar powered vehicle. The only difference is that Lightyear 0 does not need to be connected to take advantage of this power source. Is it sufficient?