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On track to the most aerodynamic 5-seater to date: real-world testing validates our record-breaking drag coefficient

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This week, we reveal the results of recent testing in Aprilia, which confirm we're well on track to producing the most efficient car to date.

The Lightyear team first tested tyre performance, then aerodynamics and finally, efficiency at higher speeds.

In automotive aerodynamics, there is a three-part testing trinity: wind tunnel, computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and real-world testing. Simulations provide key insight, but they can't tell us for certain exactly how the car will perform where it matters most, real life.

Lightyear’s aerodynamics team recently completed this trinity with promising results, as they put the validation prototype on the track in Aprilia, at the Bridgestone European Proving Ground (EUPG).

Energy consumption

Lightyear One’s energy consumption, and therefore its efficiency, depends on three key elements: the heating system, rolling resistance, and aerodynamics. Aerodynamics is a major energy consumer, especially at higher speeds, because air resistance increases with velocity.

The car tackles the challenge with a design that minimises air resistance and achieves a low drag coefficient. A good (low) drag coefficient means a more economical car that consumes less energy and, as a result, can drive further.

Aerodynamics directly impacts a car's range ⎯ one of the biggest challenges for electric vehicles ⎯ and especially when driving at higher speeds.

Aerodynamic design becomes particularly important at speed, and it's the same reason for Lightyear One’s gentle curves and organic shapes. But there is a careful balance to strike; marrying aerodynamic proportions with sleek looks, solar panel integration, (780L) storage space and a user-friendly experience is what we focus on.

Real-world testing

Reviewing real-life performance is a critical step towards that balance. "We already have a lot of information, but we want to complete this trinity.” Explains Federico Garcia, Aerodynamic Engineer. “What we are trying to acquire here is information about how the car behaves in a natural environment.”

Tests consisted of driving at varying speeds up to 130 km/h, taking wake measurements of air pressure around the car and monitoring power consumption.

Aerodynamic Engineer Annemiek Koers was also in the team conducting tests in Aprilia and outlined how they ran. "For the measurements around the car, we use specially-made rakes." The rakes Annemiek refers to are grid structures fitted with sensors, placed in different positions on the car.

"Those sensors," explains Annemiek, "are connected to a data acquisition system. We measure the pressure at different locations around the car with that system."

Key outcomes

Now that the aerodynamics testing trinity is complete with wind tunnel, CFD and real-world tests, we can advance with some truly significant outcomes.

Results of our road tests confirm that we're on track to producing the most aerodynamic 5-seater to date, with a record-breaking drag coefficient of less than 0.20 (Cd).

Here at Lightyear, we never stop learning. And we never stop using those lessons to innovate. The tests, which delivered robust insight into the aerodynamics of our validation prototype, will be crucial in developing the most efficient car.

The results will help to achieve a model with optimal aerodynamics, as well as style. In short, it will help us achieve a car with efficiency at its heart, beating through the carefully considered details of its design.

Results of our road tests confirm that we're on track to producing the most aerodynamic 5-seater to date, with a record-breaking drag coefficient of less than 0.20 (Cd).

About Lightyear’s technology

As our world moves to more sustainable energy sources, Lightyear is driving the development of clean mobility in the automotive industry. By enabling electric vehicles to be scalable for everyone, everywhere, we will accelerate the sustainability transition and have a positive impact.

Our technology is engineered to enable a clean future. Starting from scratch and using a holistic design approach we developed an ultra energy-efficient long-range solar car. Our technology redefines performance with what truly matters: efficiency.

More about our technologies >

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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