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Solar panels on any car — the versatility of Lightyear’s solar technology

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Solar panels solar car Lightyear

Clean mobility for everyone, everywhere. That’s been our mission from the very beginning. And as we get ready for the start of production of Lightyear 0, we are a vital step closer to making that a reality. But we see potential in using our solar technology for far more than our own cars.

At Lightyear, not only are we producing the world’s first solar car, we are also producing the solar panels that go on top of it. We see huge potential in bringing our solar roofs to other cars. The amount of cars on roads is increasing exponentially, and it's not likely to slow. While reducing numbers through innovative car-sharing and ride-hailing options is crucial, so is making vehicles cleaner.

We strive for a world where every kind of travel, from daily journeys to ambitious adventures, can be done without harming the beautiful flora and fauna we share it with. That starts with harnessing our oldest and most plentiful renewable energy source: the sun.

How do solar panels work?

The large solar panels we’re used to seeing on housing are not flexible enough to fit on a car’s roof, as they would require curved surfaces.

At Lightyear, we've spent years developing solar roofs that are explicitly designed for our car's graceful, aerodynamic shape. We’ve innovated solar panel technology to its full potential, designing and manufacturing our own patented, double curved solar panels in our dedicated factory in Venray, the Netherlands.

The sun is the earth's most plentiful energy source, which makes solar panels an ideal fit for harnessing clean, renewable energy, but how do they work?

Solar panels are formed of many different parts. The smallest part is called a solar cell. When a few of these solar cells are combined they form a solar string. These strings, when combined with a top and back layer, become a solar panel.

How solar panels work in Lightyear 0

The photovoltaic cells that make up a solar string are energised by the sun, creating a reaction that results in motion, and therefore energy. Conversion electronics then convert the yielded energy into electricity.

In cars, this electricity would then be directly stored in the battery, ready for consumption wherever it’s needed, or used directly.

Converting solar power into reusable energy

Why should I put solar panels on my car?

Because of its bright and boundless potential, the automotive industry is waking up to solar power. We have a societal need for mobility, but we also need to protect the environment. Currently, the automotive industry is trialling solar technology as an additional source to charge auxiliary systems in electric cars, such as air conditioning. But here at Lightyear, we have built it as fully integrated technology.

While we see a future where every car is powered by solar, no car is as efficient at harnessing solar energy as Lightyear 0. Not yet, anyway.

It is the first production-ready, hyper-efficient solar electric vehicle (SEV) of its kind. It has 782 monocrystalline silicon solar cells on its 5m2 roof and hood, forming an integral part of the technologies that set it apart from any other EV. As the most aerodynamic production car in history, it’s able to drive further than any other car on the same amount of solar-powered energy.

And while Lightyear 0 is the only production-ready SEV for now, we believe that solar will become the main source for driving everywhere.

Solar powered car solar panels Lightyear 0

Incorporating our patented solar roofs with other cars will benefit both drivers and the planet. An EV’s range increases considerably with a solar roof, as its energy is replenished by the sun on the go. This means EVs won’t have to be traditionally charged as much, which saves on electricity costs and, in turn, relieves strain on the power grid and the environment.

Depending on your vehicle's efficiency and potential surface area of the solar array, the benefits are considerable. A more aerodynamic car will be more efficient with a solar roof, allowing it to travel further on less energy. More surface room for solar arrays means your car can build up more energy through the sun. Surplus energy can even be channeled back into your own home, allowing you to use the sun to keep your lights on.

Can solar panels work on any car?

We are constantly improving our solar technology to make our cars of the future as efficient as possible. Through pilot trials we are validating our solar roofs on different vehicle models and brands. We are advancing our knowledge and expertise in Vehicle-Integrated Photovoltaics (VIPV) by extending our solar fleet to gather more data and improve our system.

Can solar panels work on any car

We do this by integrating our solar panel technology into vehicles different from our own, for example, by replacing a car’s panoramic roof with our own solar roof. We test these prototypes for one year, and analyse the results every three months. By experimenting with a wide variety of vehicles in different ways, we improve our technology, so that we can establish high performing products with cutting-edge technology.

We envision a great future for solar mobility, where our solar technology has an impact beyond the cars we produce. Here’s to a future where any car you own, any transportation you take, can be powered by the sun.

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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