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October 29, 2019

Lightyear One: the car built to perform on energy efficiency

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Lightyear One is more than a car on which a solar panel is attached to. It is special because of its efficiency-driven design, which allows it to get the most out of every ray of sunlight. Whether it be about aerodynamics, efficient energy or material use, Lightyear One is built to perform. As a result, the range becomes a second thought and freedom a fact.

Rethinking the car

When designing the world's first long-range solar car, we needed to create something that was more than just another electric vehicle. We wanted to make an impact on the world of mobility by solving what up until now had been an impossibility. Our challenge was to reconcile the opposition between what it means to have a long-range electric vehicle and the solar element that defines Lightyear One.

With a focus on larger battery packs, conventional long-range electric cars have been some of the heaviest on the market. While this provides range, it also means that any energy from solar cells would never be enough to power the car for significant distances. That is why we turned this problem on its head to develop a car that has the range without the heavy battery pack.

The result? Lightyear One is able to get up to an additional 60 kilometres of range per day, from the sun, thanks not only to the efficiency of its solar cells, but to a design optimised for minimal energy use.

Starting from scratch

This different perspective on what it takes to build a car is translated into two design requirements for Lightyear One: Firstly to maximise the solar surface and secondly to be as efficient as possible. Starting with the five square meters of solar cells, enough to extend the range of the car significantly and to make sure that it could fulfil its energy needs for a daily commute, we laid out the design for Lightyear One.

While initially constraining, this allowed us to focus on one of the main aspects of Lightyear One’s efficiency: its aerodynamics. The elongated shape of the car resulting from the large solar array turned into an asset when streamlining the vehicle's design. Alongside tried and tested industry solutions, such as wheel covers and the replacement of side mirrors with side cameras, Lightyear One’s design allows it to attain a record-breaking drag coefficient (Cd) of 0.20 and to be the most aerodynamic five-seater to date.

Additionally, making use of light composite materials and a smaller battery pack drastically reduces weight and allows Lightyear One to enter a ‘lightweight-cycle’: by making one part of the car lighter and more efficient, one can make other parts lighter as well.

Combined with the use of efficient components such as the four lightweight in-wheel motors, which replace the engine, Lightyear One is as light and as efficient as possible.

Team Lightyear testing different aerodynamics configurations of Lightyear One.

Low Speeds and High Speeds: A story of weight & aerodynamics

So Lightyear One has a low aerodynamic drag coefficient, but what does that mean? With the reduced weight of the car minimising road friction and the streamlined design reducing drag, Lightyear One is equipped to perform at low and high speeds alike. Being 2 times more efficient than regular electric cars, Lightyear One can drive a longer distance without needing to charge.

It is a car of the future, with minimised resource use going into its construction and into its use. This story of performance is one of freedom from constraint. No more drafting behind trucks to reach your destination or worrying about charging or concerns about eco-friendly driving.

Lightyear One is a car built to drive the distance without the impact.

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