The newly released Lightyear One solar-electric vehicle can travel 440 miles on a single charge. However, we are not yet able to drive the car, as the Lightyear team, based in Hermond, the Netherlands, has not yet obtained a permit to get on the road in the United States. But we all know that solar-powered home cars are the future, and when I experience it, I feel like I’m sitting in a car that belongs to the future.
Solar cars have long seemed a distant fantasy, because even electric car companies like Tesla have not yet invested in production, but the founders of Lightyear One believe they will one day be comparable to gasoline-powered and electric vehicles.
And change is really happening. According to Bloomberg’s new energy vehicle report, it took about five years to sell a million electric vehicles for the first time, a second million electric vehicles took only a year and a half, and by the end of 2018, only six months after reaching the third million milestone. The fourth million electric cars were sold.
Perhaps the coolest thing about this type of car is that the solar panels on it cover the whole car.
Arjo van der Ham, the Lightyear team’s chief technology officer, said in an interview that the inability to look out through the back window had no impact. The driver can see the contents of the back of the car by seeing two side mirror cameras on the display near the door handle. The company will also install a central mirror and side mirror to provide a panoramic view of the rear of the car. The camera can also identify risks through artificial intelligence, such as alertalerts when entering the driver’s blind spot.
Lex Hoefsloot, Lightyear’s chief executive and co-founder, said in an interview that electronic devices moved to the front of the car. The car actually has four engines, one for each wheel. “This means it can react quickly to driving changes and improve the aerodynamics of a car.” “
Across the car, there are 1,000 small solar panels that absorb sunlight and convert it into electricity. Hoefsloot says they are smaller than the tiles on the roof of the house, mainly to accommodate the curved roof. The color of the solar panels is slightly different, but from a distance, the car looks like it has an all-black stripe.
The car can accommodate about five adults and has a luggage space of 780 litres. The car has a 60 kWh battery and can be charged at 12 km/h, while it can also use an electric vehicle charging station, which will allow the car to reach 507 km in an hour.
“We are continually improving our durability and comfort,” Hoefsloot said. This is the first electric car to actually drive without a lot of charging. The car can travel 100 miles an hour and speed up to 60 in eight seconds. Charged with solar energy, the Lightyear One provides nearly 50 kilometers of energy for a four-hour drive. Its chassis is made of aluminum and very light.
The company plans to start producing about 946 such vehicles in the Netherlands starting in 2021 and will work with a European manufacturer to expand production.
Press the button on the side of the car to open the door. There is a large red button in the middle of the vehicle’s dashboard area, which is a safe parking function, and several displays for displaying dashboard data and information.
‘Heat is absorbed evenly on solar panels, and the car is insulated, so you don’t have to worry about too much heat generated by your solar cells,’ says Hoefsloot. “At the moment, the prototype vehicle covers only minimal functionality,” he said. “The car has a long body, so it has good collision protection for passengers and the interior design will continue to improve.
A team of five founders began research and development in 2016, and the demo car is the first car they’ll show, and the model will be even better in the future. Van der Ham says they are taking part in the World Solar Competition in Australia. “After that, we brought our student-made cars all over the world. At first we were asked when we could buy such a car. By 2015, almost all of us had graduated and set up a company. We want to do something for the environment and hope to make the world a better place. “
Electric cars are not really sustainable because they still have to draw electricity from the grid, a “grey technology” that does not achieve real sustainability.
The advantages of solar energy
One important factor in the sustainability of solar cars is their efficiency. You can get rid of the tank and redesign the engine to make it smaller and take up less space, giving the car more battery capacity.
“A car, if I can drive longer miles with the same amount of energy, becomes more efficient,” he said. As a result, the car is about twice as efficient as Tesla. Within a year, solar charging will give you a zero-cost driving experience of about 8,000 miles. “
In fact, it’s hard to install enough solar cells in cars to charge them enough. “One of the big challenges we face is installing large areas of solar cells that also give the car good aerodynamics and comfortable seats for people,” Hoefsloot said. The car has a lower chassis and is very compact for a family car. We focus on making ultra-efficient cars, and the rest of the space design issues will be left to our partners. “
The first cars are expected to be available by the end of 2021, starting at $135,000. The goal is to sell about 100,000 cars by 2023 at a price drop to $55,000. So far, the Lightyear team has raised about $30 million and is raising more, with 120 employees. The company is using more off-the-shelf parts to cut costs.
Overall, I was impressed by the balance between practicality and sustainability. In a few years, I believe this concept will put more pressure on automobile manufacturers, and the cars will gradually move into the era of sustainable development.