The idea of drawing energy from sunlight isn’t exactly new. As early as the mid-1800's people were anxious about the idea that we will one day run out of fuel, and the first solar panel was installed on a New York roof in 1884. But the idea of propelling a vehicle through solar energy didn’t arise until much later, in the 1950s, and development of solar-powered vehicles has been going on at a sluggish pace since then. This has all changed now, with the introduction of a solar-powered car that can drive 450 miles on a single charge.
The problems with manufacturing a feasible solar car are numerous: getting enough solar energy to propel a heavy vehicle is a problem, and such a car faces serious issues during nighttime and winter, or just about any cloudy or overcast day. But that doesn’t mean that solar energy can’t be used to complement other, more conventional energy sources.
Enter Lightyear One, a Dutch-produced car that promises to be the next big thing in gasless cars. The idea for the Lightyear One came about due to the problems facing electrical cars, namely, a lack of charging stations and energy inefficiency. But what if in addition to electricity, the car’s battery will also be charged by the sun?
The Lightyear One offers exactly this solution, a hybrid electric-solar car that promises to deliver double the energy efficiency of other electric cars and minimize charging. While modern commercial electric cars can go about 200-300 miles on a single charge, Lightyear CEO Lex Hoesfloot promises the Lightyear One can drive 450 miles before requiring a charge.
Charging times are also said to be shorter, as Hoesfloot says the car can replenish 250 miles’ worth of energy overnight at just about any 230v electric socket.
And while solar arrays on cars can make for an eyesore, the Lightyear One boasts a sleek, beautiful design where the panels are part of the aesthetic, rather than an unfortunate necessity you need to design the car around.
The catch lies in the price tag, as the car will cost a whopping 149,000$, which is understandable, considering the cost of the technology, but can be quite the deterrent for would-be buyers. Hoesfloot says future models will be cheaper and will be provided to autonomous and shared car fleets, further reducing the price. Another thing to consider is that the biggest promise of the Lightyear One is lower overall operational costs and more dollar value per mile.
Image source: Lightyear