Like Pokemon and Pegasus, the idea of a solar car is as dreamy as it is perfect. Who wouldn’t want a car powered by solar energy? Who wouldn’t want to ditch the lines and bills at the gas station? this The car can travel 450 miles on a single charge, with solar panels covering the 5-square-meter roof and recovering a range of 12 kilometers per hour. this The car has four electric motors! this Cars… sound too good to be true, don’t they?
The first generation of light years 0 (go to the picture: called on the website Light Year One) to begin production for the European market in December 2022, the company claims, despite “production line” Looks more like someone’s garage than a factory floor. (The factory that builds the A-Class Mercedes will eventually do so, the company said.)
Now, at CES 2023, the company has unveiled the next-generation Lightyear 2 — and no, we’re not sure what happened to version 1 either.
Alexandre Hoefsloot, Lightyear’s CEO and co-founder, told me: “Everything we learned from Lightyear 0—and a lot of it—we’re applying it to Lightyear 2.” It will take a while to get a new car, let alone one powered by solar energy. “It’s still two and a half years away from being in production … you know cars. It’s going to take a long time,” he said.
Disclaimer: Along with other members of the media, I was given permission to view the new model. But I can’t take pictures or videos of you. Still, I can see clearly. This is really good!
Like the 0, the Lightyear 2 harnesses the power of the sun through solar panels on the hood, roof and trunk. They’re hybrids, which means they don’t depend entirely on sunlight for power; the point is just to reduce reliance on a strained electrical grid. In fact, they’re also turning things around by supplying clean energy to the grid, the company claims.
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Rainbows and unicorns sound great too, don’t they? Unfortunately, the company’s one-pager is as light as sunshine on details. To confirm the car’s viability and answer some key questions, Techradar joined the company in an exclusive demonstration at CES in Las Vegas.
“In a proper solar car, our definition is that at least half of all the energy you need for a year has to come from the sun,” Hoefsloot told me. “Even in the Netherlands. It’s the cloudiest country in the world, so we think that’s a good definition.” It’s a clever definition, and it accounts for seasonality: there will be less sunshine in winter than in summer, but it doesn’t It means that the solar car will be sealed for half a year. You’ll only pay more per mile in the winter.
The Model 2’s interior is surprisingly minimal: There’s a big LCD panel, just like the Tesla Model 3 (Hoefsloot told me he drives one himself). But there’s no instrument cluster, and there’s very little else at your fingertips besides the steering wheel. Instead of a speedometer, there’s a pop-up storage compartment. There’s a small display between the steering wheel and the windshield that shows speed and range and any other specs you need.
“Sub-$40,000 price target? Hitting that with a brand new concept? That’s a challenge. So anything you see in the interior is also focused on how we get to those cost levels,” Hoefsloot said. So, the doors are recycled plastic, and the textile on the front fascia adds a splash and character, but in the end, it’s kind of stripped down.
Our first client saw his car for the first time on Dutch soil. pic.twitter.com/K14QwsSw3wDecember 20, 2022
In July 2021, the company said it was working with Finnish company Valnet to build a prototype of Lightyear 0, which will cost six figures. Last summer, the company finally opened its barn doors to show the world the fruit of five years of labor: a $250,000 solar-powered electric car that can run for up to seven months without being plugged into a conventional charger.
In addition to Lightyear, several companies are currently “on the verge” of producing scalable solar-powered cars that could be on the road soon. Mercedes, Hyundai, Tesla and Toyota, to name a few major brands, are actively developing solar models or their hybrids.
The main issues that continue to plague the rollout of these vehicles include the difficulty of making safe, reliable and cost-effective vehicle integration modules, and reduced power generation due to inclement weather and other obstacles (think of the number of buildings, bridges, trees and tunnels blocking roof panels) .
But what about solar cars? Who wouldn’t want this? We hold our breath for unicorns.