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An automotive switch — Solar technology will become the norm for limitless electric driving

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solar technology solar roof

Electric cars are crucial to our planet’s preservation, but we believe their potential remains untapped. In this blog, we explain why we foresee that cars will become solar electric as we soar towards a more sustainable and convenient vein of driving.

Solar power is a plentiful and powerful renewable energy source.

Every hour, 430 quintillion joules of energy hit the earth. That’s enough to cover the entire world’s annual usage in just two minutes. The challenge then, lies in capturing it.

Developing solar farms means investing in buildings and potentially encroaching on natural habitats. Society is opting to install solar panels on existing infrastructure to reduce the need for ground clearance.

At Lightyear, we say, why not our cars?

For people and planet — SEVs defined

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?

Growth number cars worldwide

The answer lies in providing access to affordable and sustainable vehicles, able to harness and drive on green energy: electric cars with solar roofs. Solar electric vehicles (SEVs) are truly clean and, unlike conventional EVs, do not depend on plug charging alone. An SEV has an integrated layer of solar cells that harness and convert clean energy from the sun, sending that power to its battery, auxiliary systems — wherever it’s needed most.

Despite common assumptions, today’s SEVs aren’t solely powered by the sun. They’re essentially EVs with the crucial ability to support their battery with solar power between plug charges.

And while they’re currently in the early phases of adoption, we foresee a future where solar electric driving becomes the norm. Lightyear 0, which will roll into production later this year, will trigger that movement.

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A real world application — Driving on solar power

We’re about to enter an exciting era of mobility, where drivers can explore beyond infrastructure without taxing the planet or fear of an empty battery. Charging patterns will look vastly different from that of conventional EVs.

EVs depend on their battery for range, which charges and recharges with plugs alone. But the bright capabilities of SEVs aren’t so easily quantified. Their range, charging frequency and potential economic savings depend on climate and the daily habits of their drivers.

solar car charging costs

Let’s take a person living in the Hague, the Netherlands. This person works in Rotterdam five days a week, and has a total daily commute of 48 kilometres. They park outside their office in an open space for roughly eight hours per day. Let’s also assume it’s summer; within the months of June — August.

Based on an average summer week in the Netherlands, Lightyear 0 can yield 177 kilometres from the sun. The first moment our driver will need to plug charge, then, is after the 10th week. One plug charge in three months. As well as being the cleanest drive, that would also cost just €‎20 against current electricity prices in the Netherlands.

An average EV, on the other hand, will need charging approximately 7.6 times under the same conditions, incurring €‎148 in cost. An average fuel car will need to refuel only twice, but it will also be twice as expensive.

Automotive shifts — Solar electric moves

Because of its bright and boundless potential, the automotive industry, and even the European Parliament, is waking up to solar power.

On 14 September, the European Parliament voted for three amendments to the Renewable Energy Directive (RED). They clarify: (1) what an SEV is, (2) that an SEV can be more efficient than a battery electric vehicle (BEV) and (3) that energy generated by an SEV is ‘fully renewable’.

This sends a clear message: the world is looking to innovative technologies to clean and revolutionise mobility, without impacting our societal habits and need to move.

For that reason, more manufacturers are exploring solar technology. In the current market landscape, however, solar power is only being trialled as an additional source to charge auxiliary systems in electric cars, such as air conditioning.

solar roof solar powered cars

Lightyear 0 is the first production vehicle to prove radical concepts of efficiency and integrated solar technology. And while solar power contributes to its substantial power yield, we see a future where solar becomes the main source for driving.

Research and development plied into Lightyear 0 give our second, mass-market model, Lightyear 2, a head start. Its innovations will bolster an even more efficient and capable design, and its cost enables a competitive and accessible market price in our next model.

Solar electric mobility is about to shine on roads across Europe, ensure you don’t miss a moment of the adventure by subscribing to our mailing list.

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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