The road to production: from validating technology to customer usage in final steps toward manufacture
This year, Lightyear One will make its debut on roads across Europe as the world's first long-range solar electric vehicle (SEV); the pinnacle of revolutionary innovation that began six years ago.
Today, we’re happy to share that we have validated our core technologies, and now shift focus to customer-use prototypes. Essentially, this crucial milestone means we have validated our technologies and how they come together to prove our concepts of radical efficiency.
As we gear up for production this year, we’re excited to recap some key technology milestones and outline the next steps to manufacture. The moment we deliver our cars to the pioneers keen to put clean mobility on the road.
Flipping the script of clean mobility
To accelerate a new era of truly clean mobility, the world needs more than great Electric Vehicles (EVs). That’s because the planet’s electrical grid cannot support their rapid growth. Put simply, access to charging stations will not keep up with the demand for electric cars.
Our strategy flips the approach the automotive industry has taken so far, which is to increase the range of electric vehicles by adding batteries, and, in turn, weight and CO₂ emissions.
Our radical focus on efficiency delivers more range with less battery, reducing weight and CO₂ emissions per vehicle. Our car’s optimised solar roof and holistic design enable the car to drive for weeks or even months without charging. To achieve that, we had to think differently, continuously learn, and test comprehensively.
This is where our Validation Prototype comes in.
Lightyear One Validation Prototype
You probably recognise the Lightyear One Validation Prototype (VP); it's a bit of an eyecatcher. What you may not know, is that its vibrant wrapping is a nod to nature. We used an algorithmic simulation to create patterns spontaneously, much the same way they arise within ecosystems and lifecycles. Think ripples on water, cracks in the dried earth, snakeskin and treebark.
Bringing an element of the natural world to our VP was important to us because it ties together the intricate technologies designed with the planet, and its preservation, in mind.
But let’s rewind. Before we had a physical VP, we started with our Vehicle Performance Model (VPM). Think of the VPM as a digital version of Lightyear One, we used it to capture its detailed design, intricate features, systems and processes in one complete footprint. It’s where we began the rigorous simulations that tested our car’s efficiency.
With the VP, we were able to do measure, for the first time, how our car performed against those virtual simulations in real life. And it certainly measured up.
Hitting tracks across the globe, the VP completed a series of extensive tests, all designed to evaluate how the car performs where it matters most, the real world.
"The Validation Prototype is the car we used to integrate all of our key technologies and attributes we’ll realise in Lightyear One. Its ultimate goal is to validate that our customers can drive on the power of the sun for months on end.” – Vehicle Project Manager, Patrick Creevey
Road tests with promising results
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.
Vehicle Project Manager, Patrick Creevey, adds: “Some other tests we did - that are probably not as well known - included validating the entire solar yield our panels can achieve. In other words, to what extent our technology can harness the sun and recharge vehicles with its power.
“There’s also continuous validation going on in the background on top of track testing, as each component and system is continuously put multiple iterations. For example, this year we released the fourth production-intent iteration of the inverters powering our in-wheel motors. During testing, they achieved industry leading efficiency performance - which effectively means that in Lightyear One less energy is lost, normally through heat, and maximum power gets directed to our in-wheel motors.”
Lightyear One Production Intent Vehicles (PIVs)
Thousands of lightbulb moments, hundreds of breakthroughs and just as many hurdles brought us here. The VP brought key technologies together, for the first time, to validate our concept of radical efficiency and truly clean mobility. With it, we have essentially proven our features and systems, and now look to validate their use against the needs of the customer. We’ll do that with our Production Intent Vehicles (PIVs)
Working collaboratively with our manufacturing partner, Valmet Automotive, we’ll produce 16 PIVs to validate the car’s industrial design and the way its drivers will use it every day.
In this mature phase of validation our PIVs will go through safety system, functional, misuse, crash, durability, robustness and multiple homologation tests. We’ll also further verify simulations done with the VPM; as this is where we make design trade-offs in the transition from one prototype to the next.
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.
Vehicle Project Manager, Patrick Creevey added: “These next validation tests will help us ensure our final production cars live up to the most rigorous automotive standards.
We’ll be testing the integration of all our revolutionary design elements and fine-tuning the vehicles to deliver maximum efficiency. The misuse and durability testing will also ensure Lightyear One will be ready for any adventure that comes its way.
Sadly, we’ll also have to say goodbye to some of our PIVs as we go through elaborate crash testing to uphold both vehicle and driver safety to the highest standard. That's a surreal moment, as we test how the technologies that have been tirelessly innovated, over many years, will fair against a solid wall."
A car for pioneers
Our mission is simple, to provide clean mobility for everyone, everywhere, and it goes beyond engineering a solar-powered vehicle. We’re forging new possibilities, driving change and inviting pioneers to make history with us, as we put truly clean mobility on the road for the first time.
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 through car-sharing, ride-hailing and ride-sharing services. 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.
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.