Lightyear is an electric car company in The Netherlands whose mission is to develop, manufacture and sell solar-powered cars that will accelerate the electric car revolution by eliminating one of the biggest drawbacks — the lack of charging infrastructure.
The company claims only 3% of people in the world live within 100 kilometers of a public charging station. EV charging infrastructure is improving, but not nearly fast enough to allow electric cars to be the mainstream choice in time to have maximum positive impact on the pace of global warming.
The company gets its name from the distance light travels in one year — 9.5 trillion kilometers. That’s apparently how far people on earth drive their vehicles every year. Lightyear’s goal is to get to the point as quickly as possible where the total miles driven in electric cars equals one light year.
By covering the surface of its cars with solar cells and using advanced aerodynamics together with aggressive lightweighting techniques, Lightyear says its cars will be able to drive 400 to 800 kilometers on a full battery charge.
In sunny places like Hawaii, solar power could allow a driver to go up to 20,000 kilometers without ever plugging in. In Amsterdam, 10,000 kilometers a year is possible. The cars will also be able to recharge using household current and a standard 3.7 kW charger.
Lightyear is still in the concept phase. It hopes to build 10 cars by 2019. Early adopters can reserve one today with a deposit of €19,000. Cost of the completed cars is said to be €119,000. That’s a chunk of change for unproven technology and an unknown product.
Charging infrastructure is indeed one of the biggest hurdles standing in the way of mass adoption of electric cars. The fear of being stuck far from home with a flat battery is a real issue for many people who would otherwise be happy to drive an electric car. Whether solar-powered cars are the answer to that problem remains to be seen.
Toyota is now offering a solar roof on the Prius Prime that uses solar cells manufactured by Panasonic. Tesla is moving rapidly toward making glass roofs available on all its cars. With is close partnership with Panasonic in the Gigafactory project, there’s a good chance that solar-powered Teslas will be offered in the near future.
The Lightyear idea makes a lot of sense. Whether it will be commercially viable remains to be seen.