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A powerful shift — Why it’ll take more than conventional electric vehicles to scale clean mobility

The Electric vehicles (EVs) on roads today certainly contribute to a cleaner future, but they don’t provide a truly scalable solution. In this blog, we look at the limits of electric vehicles and give our take on a zero-emission future.

Lightyear 0 solar electric car

Imagine for a moment that we snap our fingers and replace every combustion car on the planet with an electric one.

Your commute would be cleaner, in fact, tailpipe emissions would be all but eradicated. But you’d still be relying on fossil fuels to charge and power your vehicle. Everybody would.

The electricity grid, typically powered by coal or natural gas, would become significantly strained — unable to meet this enormous new demand — and the climate crisis would endure.

Accelerating demand

Let’s slow things down again. The gradual electrification of vehicles goes hand in hand with positive developments toward an electricity grid powered by green energy. Unfortunately, that’s a long way off. Far beyond the change needed to meet the Paris Agreement climate targets.

And can you imagine how much renewable energy we’d need to keep a global fleet of electric cars driving? That’s 1.5 billion as it stands today. Of which, just seven million are electric. Less than 0.5%.

Estimated growth cars worldwide

EVs are critical for creating the change our planet needs. But they’ll only become scalable if we limit the amount of energy they consume.

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A new vein of electric driving

Worldwide demand for vehicles is skyrocketing; mobility is a fundamental societal need. But how do we enable people to move freely without negatively impacting the environment?

We believe the answer lies in giving everyone access to affordable, sustainable vehicles able to drive on renewable energy sources. It’s here that we find the critical difference between the conventional EVs we know today, and the next generation of EVs that can reshape tomorrow.

A bright, innovative era is dawning for electric driving, and solar electric vehicles (SEVs) are at its forefront. By harnessing the power of the sun, SEVs dramatically decrease EV dependency on the electricity grid. Yet, and despite common assumptions, SEVs aren’t solely powered by the sun. They’re essentially EVs, with the crucial ability to top up their battery with solar power between plug charges. They can drive for months without charging, and hold the power to drastically free up the electricity grid.

Another discernable difference between today’s EV and that of tomorrow is efficiency. Next-gen EVs, like Lightyear 0, are built to stretch energy like never before. They’re highly-efficient in every carefully considered detail of design; from powertrain to aerodynamics.

They minimise energy consumption and maximise performance where it matters most, everyday life. Because, aside from scalability challenges, there are a few more practical drawbacks to the current generation of EVs.

Adoption challenges electric cars

Range

One of the biggest drawbacks drivers of electric cars face is range anxiety. To combat this, electric car companies traditionally opt for increasing EV battery size so vehicles drive further on a single charge. Ironically, that creates heavier cars that rely on more frequent charging. So, range is boosted, but so is dependency on the power grid.

Charging

It’s no secret that charging infrastructure for battery electric vehicles isn't as accessible or effective as it needs to be. Today, it can be a struggle for electric car owners to find charging stations. This will only get worse as demand increases, as will pressure on the electricity grid.

Cost

Electric cars are generally more expensive than combustion cars, and while the price of gasoline is rising, the cost of electricity is creeping up too. It’s becoming more expensive to both buy and power EVs, without an explicit route to affordability mapped out.

A pure and bright solution

There’s light on the horizon for scalable, zero-emission mobility. Not only do solar-powered, hyper-efficient cars negate the need for electrical infrastructure, with the ability to charge from a household socket if needed, but they drastically reduce strain on the power grid by using the sun as their energy source.

Scalable cars solar electric vehicles

Range reinvented

Solar cars can also reach the remote and tackle the vast, without taxing the planet or fear of an empty battery. They charge wherever there’s daylight, whether parked or on the move. With 5m2 of integrated, double-curved solar arrays, Lightyear 0 achieves >1000 km between charges.

Charging redefined

These cars are built around an ecosystem of efficiency to reduce plug charges, stretching each joule of energy as far as it can go. And with the sun as an additional power source, heavy dependence on charging infrastructure is taken out of the equation. In optimal climates, Lightyear 0 could go up to 7 months without plug charging.

Leapfrog skip the grid electric car

Cost mapped out

We’ve devised a clear and explicit path to the accessibility and affordability of (S)EVs. A key step will come in the form of Lightyear 2, our next and more affordable model. We broke this topic down in our last blog in the mobility series, outlining a bold strategy that drives change.

Powerful shifts in automotive

In Europe, readiness to adopt EVs is slowly growing, in part thanks to EU laws and regulations. From 2030, there will be no more Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles sold in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, and from 2035 onwards 27 European countries will no longer sell non-electric vehicles. A shift like this demonstrates the importance of electric cars as a solution to our long-term clean mobility needs, with more importance than ever put to scaling them.

In our next mobility blog, we explore more innovative ways of dealing with mobility, from the integration of renewable technologies and efficiency of design, to building entire mobility ecosystems.

Join our clean mobility movement and subscribe to our mailing list today to stay up to date on all things Lightyear.

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About Lightyear

We design for independence and convenience. We create clean solar electric cars that can drive off-grid and into all of life's adventures.

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This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 848620