“Young man, that’s the thing; you have it. Keep at it. Electric cars must keep near to power stations. The storage battery is too heavy. Steam cars won’t do, either, for they require a boiler and fire. Your car is self-contained—carries its own power plant—no fire, no boiler, no smoke and no steam. You have the thing. Keep at it.” Thomas Edison to Henry Ford.
A come-back story
Electric cars are finally taking off, 100 years after they were exiled from our streets for lacking flexibility and range. Despite all the technological progress of the past century, Thomas Edison’s warnings still ring true today. Electric cars must keep near to power stations. Their batteries are too heavy. Their power plants are not self-contained.
Yet, after all this time, there is finally a rebuttal to Edison’s critic of electric cars. They can venture our further than ever before, the battery packs can be lighter and, most importantly, the power plant can be included on the vehicle itself. These are the problems addressed by the advent of a new type of electric car: the solar car.
The elegance of efficiency
The starting point to addressing these problems was designing Lightyear One to be as efficient as possible. By bringing material choice into the 21st century and selecting of light and strong composite materials such as carbon fibre to replace steel parts, weight can be kept to a strict minimum. The implementation of novel technologies such as in-wheel motors, which replace a central engine reduce energy loss and decrease weight even further. And, while initially a constraint, the elongated roof became a point of inspiration, helping create the optimised aerodynamics.
Together these deviations from ‘normal cars’ make Lightyear One is 2.5 times more efficient than existing electric cars on the market and make it worthwhile to integrate a solar panel into the car.
Lightyear One: Energised by SunPower
When Lightyear One was released on the 25th of June, the world’s attention was on one of its defining features: the 5m2 solar power plant encased in its roof and bonnet. Aesthetically pleasing and elegantly encased within safety glass, the solar cells are barely noticeable: the copper foundation on which the cells are built means there is no distracting wiring to be seen at the surface of the cells.
Manufactured by SunPower, a world leader in solar efficiency, the Maxeon solar cells integrated into the roof and bonnet of Lightyear One provide enough power to add 12km of range every hour to the car.
Racing to save the planet
The story of Lightyear and SunPower, has been one of racing for several years already. Our collaboration extends back to the origins of Lightyear in Solar Team Eindhoven, where their high performance solar cells powered our Stella cars at the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. Using their cutting edge technology, the successive teams triumphed in 2013, 2015 and 2017 and by using it in Lightyear One, we are delivering a car built to perform.
With these years of partnership and the impressive results they have delivered, we were confident to choose them to be our supplier and powering the car to the future. Together we are now engaged in another race: one to save the planet.
A car built to last a lifetime
Lightyear One is built to go the distance, and in order to achieve this goal, it was important to use durable components in every part of the car. The solar cells powering the car are no exception and were tested under rigorous conditions at our Helmond facilities.
To verify longevity, the solar cells underwent a series of tests amongst others were hail impact, ball drop, thermal cycle, damp heat, humidity freeze. Once encased in the safety glass that makes up the roof of Lightyear One, the solar array became strong enough to withstand tough driving conditions. Impervious to weather conditions and to small impacts, the solar roof is sturdy enough to provide power for years to come.
With Lightyear One energised by SunPower, racing towards a healthier planet and a sustainable future has never been easier!