In 2016, we started creating a revolutionary product: the world's first long-range solar electric vehicle (SEV). This year, Lightyear One will make its debut on roads across Europe, the pinnacle of tireless innovation that began six years ago.
Thousands of lightbulb moments, hundreds of breakthroughs and just as many hurdles brought us here. As of today, we have validated core technology and are now shifting focus to customer-use prototypes. The first 150 units of Lightyear One, the Pioneer Edition (€150.000), have sold out and we begin to lay inroads for the success of the next series, the Limited Edition (€250.000).
In this blog, we’ll take you through crucial progress and next steps, as we update you on the transition that will bring us even closer to production. But first, for anyone new to Lightyear, let's spotlight the mission that drives us. A mission ignited by the determination to bring a brighter future.
An idea born from the thought of loss
Many years ago, Lightyear Co-Founder and CEO, Lex Hoefsloot, found himself at the top of a mountain in the Alps. A bright sunrise illuminated the landscape around him and his breath was (literally) taken by vast frozen forests and glaciers as far as the eye could stretch. He experienced something most of us can relate to; being both profoundly amazed and saddened by nature in the same moment. The feeling of awe slowly giving way to disbelief that it could disappear forever, he knew change was essential to prevent an unimaginable loss.
"The question became: how do we preserve the earth and give our children the possibility to travel and enjoy the natural world without taxing it?"
The world needs more than great electric cars
By 2030, we can expect 84 million electric vehicles (EVs) on the road in Europe alone. That’s good news, but therein lies another problem: the world cannot support this kind of growth with its current infrastructure. Put simply, access to charging stations will not keep up with the demand for electric cars.
To address the concern of charging availability and range, the automotive industry's strategy so far has been to add batteries. That boosts the carbon footprint of production and, in turn, increases weight and the need for high-power charging stations.
Our strategy flips that approach.
With Lightyear One, we prove that SEVs can effectively leapfrog the electricity grid.
A radical focus on efficiency delivers more range with less battery, reducing weight and CO₂ emissions per vehicle. The optimised solar roof and holistic design enable the car to drive for weeks or even months without charging. And with our technology, any power outlet in the world becomes a charging station. Plugged into a regular home socket, Lightyear One can still charge two times faster than a comparable electric vehicle with a similar battery size (that’s the difference between charging 400 km or 200 km overnight).
Most of the time, a revolutionary approach starts with a blank slate, kindred spirits and shared mindsets. To bring our technology to the world, we had to think differently. We relied on the right resources and support, inviting investors, partners and pioneers to join us and embrace a brand new, unconventional way of looking at mobility.
Developing Lightyear One; a vehicle for change
With Lightyear One, we’ve (almost literally) reinvented the wheel in our approach to efficiency; that hasn’t been easy.
As anyone bringing new technology to the market can attest to: the road to progress is not linear. There are inevitable setbacks when working with an uncompromising ethos of efficiency. But today, that same ethos beats through our premiere statement car in its:
Five square metres of patented, double curved solar arrays on its roof and hood, giving the car potential to charge itself and, in the summer, completely cover the average work commute;
Drag coefficient of less than 0.20 making it to become the most aerodynamic five-seater on the market;
Four in-wheel motors and inverters that set new industry standards for energy efficiency.
That meant comprehensively testing each key component of our technology with our Validation Prototype (VP). This is a vehicle that integrates all the unique features and technologies we’ll realise in Lightyear One.
The first test we ever did with the VP was to establish movement, low speeds and ensure all safety functions worked. We've come a long way since then. In July 2021, we set a new standard for electric vehicle efficiency by driving 710 kilometres on a 60 kWh charge at a speed of 85 km/h. We performed durability tests, selected a groundbreaking tyre, and achieved a record-breaking drag coefficient before putting our car's efficiency to the ultimate test with higher speeds of 130 km/h in suboptimal weather.
On top of track testing, each component and system is continuously put through detailed validation and multiple iterations. For example, this year we released the fourth production-intent iteration of the inverters powering our in-wheel motors. They achieved up to 99% efficiency - that effectively means only 1% is lost in power (i.e., through heat) as it's directed to our in-wheel motors.
Accelerating Production Intent Vehicles (PIVs)
As we gear up with our production partner, Valmet Automotive, we make a defining transition from the VP to our Production Intent Vehicles (PIVs). Essentially, this crucial milestone means we have validated our technologies and how they come together to prove our concepts of radical efficiency.
Now, we’ll move towards validating customer usage; the upcoming production of 16 PIVs brings us even closer to the cars our first customers will drive. This mature phase of validation will ensure that Lightyear One performs for its drivers in a challenging and changing world. With them, we'll conduct safety system, functional, misuse, crash, durability, robustness and multiple homologation tests which will give the cars government approval to drive on roads. Each comprehensive test plays a critical role in delivering a safe and reliable SEV and brings us a step closer to the finalised assembly instructions we’ll hand over to Valmet Automotive later this year.
As well as optimising the safety and reliability of the car, we’ll also gather intel to ensure Lightyear One gives a unique experience to its driver:
Instead of mirrors, Lightyear One features four cameras. One rearview, one parking and two side cameras;
The high-quality interior is entirely vegan and made from natural and sustainable materials. It features plant-based leather, fabrics made from recycled PET bottles and wooden deco elements from sustainably-restructured rattan palm;
A customised infotainment display and its companion app (user interface developed in-house) show charging status and track every clean kilometre of range yielded from the sun.
Outer body panels are made from reclaimed carbon; residual carbon fibre materials that would otherwise go to waste.
Pioneer Edition sold out
The debut series, the Pioneer Edition, is priced exclusively at €150,000 to celebrate the first adopters that see and believe in the same bright future. We reserved 150, and, now, all have been spoken for. Because of the limited run, each car will be marked elegantly with unique edition numbers, citing the people making history in putting solar electric cars on the road for the very first time.
Reservations have already begun for the next series of Lightyear One, the Limited Edition, which will be priced at €250,000 (as of March 1st 2022). This price more closely represents the development costs of manufacturing the world’s first long-range solar electric vehicle.
Every bespoke car will come with an ecosystem of support to uphold a seamless transition from the initial point of contact, right through to delivery and maintenance checks.
Tessie Hartjes, Sales and Investor Relations: “We are grateful for each and every pioneer that has chosen to become part of history by accelerating the future of clean mobility. As we expand our sales market this year to Germany, Belgium, France, Spain, and Italy, we see firsthand that the world is ready for clean mobility. And Lightyear One is just the beginning.”
Clean mobility for everyone, everywhere.
Our mission is simple, to provide clean mobility for everyone, everywhere. Just as we have redefined clean mobility, we are also embracing a future of mobility that puts drivers in the seat beyond traditional lease or purchase options. Despite producing an exclusive number of our first model, Lightyear One, our mission is not exclusive.
We're working to ensure Lightyear vehicles will be accessible to everyone. Quality and efficiency are critical to Lightyear, and as interest and support in our mission grow, so does demand. Last year, Lightyear partner, LeasePlan, reserved 5,000 models of Lightyear Two. And this is only the beginning: our teams continue to work closely with car-sharing, ride-hailing and ride-sharing services to include the Limited Series of Lightyear One in their fleets.
“Together, LeasePlan and Lightyear will deliver the world’s first solar-powered car subscription. We look forward to joining forces with Lightyear and putting drivers behind the wheel of some of the cleanest, most innovative EVs ever produced.” —Tex Gunning, CEO of LeasePlan.
As a company with alternative thinking in its DNA, we are always open to other options when it comes to making change happen, and welcome partnerships that help further our mission. Because, ultimately, from pioneers to partnerships, there are many ways to become part of the clean mobility mission our planet needs.