Solar-powered cars are poised to be a reality. Currently, the focus is also on electric-powered vehicles (EVs), where alternatives to the plug-and-charge are at the centre stage of research in the field. In this context, Lightyear, a start-up, is in the process of coming up with the prototype of an electric car. The car would recharge through solar cells embedded on its roof.
The car would also offer the conventional charging plug, which would allow the car to be charged at a charging station or home. The solar cells reportedly would eliminate the dependence on charging stations. Lex Hoefsloot, CEO of Lightyear, was part of a team at Eindhoven University of Technology that won the World Solar Challenge in 2013. Later, in 2015, they won again by driving nearly 1,000 miles on a single charge. After the university, Hoefsloot launched a start-up, finding investors in the process, including people with experience in the car industry–including ex-Tesla employees. Lightyear is currently working on the prototype of a solar-powered car that would hit the market in 2020.
Technically, the car does not directly run from solar energy. The car still has a lithium-ion battery powering, and the solar cells can charge the battery on the go, which means that there is a potentially unlimited source of charging.
Lightyear also confirms that the car’s body has been made much lighter than average through design changes and the material used. Other enhancements include better aerodynamics, in-wheel motors instead of a transmission, cameras instead of side-view mirrors, a streamlined undercarriage, and an adjustable height of the car through an air suspension system to minimize the drag. The company claims an impressive 500 miles (over 800 km) on a single charge in light of all the enhancements.
Meanwhile, Lightyear hopes that the car would primarily run on solar energy. The company has also put up a calculator on its website to calculate the energy distribution for commutes. So, in a sunny city, solar power would be able to cover about 96% of a 10,000 mile (16,000 km) drive annually.
Hoefsloot stated that they saw that the technology they used was getting much better from year to year. He hopes that the industry would catch on to the “second wave of electric cars”. Meanwhile, Global vehicle leasing giant LeasePlan reportedly plans to offer the world’s first solar-powered electric car to consumers in a new partnership with Lightyear. Erik Henstra, managing director of LeasePlan Netherlands, confirmed that Lightyear showed that it is possible to drive electrically on solar power.