The Lightyear One caught its first sunrays in the early hours of Tuesday morning. In a crowded theatre in Katwijk, the Netherlands, the first prototype of the Lightyear One was unveiled at sunrise. The Helmond built solar car will be delivered to theű first customers at the end of 2020.
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According to CEO Lex Hoefsloot, the Lightyear One is a result of three key ingredients: Efficiency, range and scalability. “Efficiency is something magical,” says Hoefsloot enthusiastically. “If you’re good at it, you’ll win on all fronts, which is why we focused on it.” Lightyear has achieved this high efficiency with lightweight material, engines placed in the wheels and great aerodynamics. Thanks to its low weight and high efficiency, the car’s range is 725km according to the WLTP test. To ensure that the car can be used anywhere and the idea is scalable, it can be charged by simply plugging in. A full night at the socket provides 400km of range, while a quick charger can be used for 300km after half an hour. With this, Lightyear wants to make sure that you don’t have to worry about how to charge and whether you will reach your final destination – even without the sun.
Balance of four aspects
CTO Arjo van der Ham goes deeper into the technology that makes this solar car possible: “What we have achieved is a breakthrough in efficiency. The biggest challenge was not even a technical one, but a question of how to make all parts of the system work well together. It’s about the balance of four aspects: comfort, the surface of the solar cells, the aerodynamics and the design.” The most important technological breakthrough for Van der Ham is the engines that are integrated into the wheel. “This not only gives us a more efficient drive but also makes it much less complex, so fewer things can break down.”
One of the hurdles still to be overcome is the scaling up of production. “In the end, we can produce 1,500 cars a year, but of course we can’t do that all at once. That’s why we’re slowly scaling up production so by the end of 2021 we can make full use of the production line’s capacity,” says Van der Ham.
Before the car can get on the road, it still has to undergo a lot of testing. “We have to make sure that the car works well at -10 degrees in the snow, but also at 50 degrees in the desert,” says Van der Ham. “Also, all electrical systems such as ABS and ESP need to be properly tuned and working.”
Carlo van de Weijer, Director of Smart Mobility at the Eindhoven University of Technology, has been close to the company right from the start and is impressed by Lightyear’s performance: “The journey that the team has made from idea to the first car normally takes about twenty years, they have done it in 6 to 7 years. If they can keep up this pace, we can expect even more good things.” Van de Weijer attributes part of this success to the fact that the team does not do everything by itself: “The whole world is a potential partner for them. They know that other companies are sometimes better and cleverly look for cooperation all the time.”
Martijn Broenland, the owner of the ICT company Hexon and future owner of the very first Lightyear that will be produced, also looks with admiration at the growth of the company: “I got on board because I think it’s brilliant that there are a number of students who just do it, even though others say it’s not possible. When you see how fast they grow, that’s bizarre. It shows that they are serious about everything they do. I see this car as an image for the future of mobility.”
Lightyear One can already be ordered all over Europe and costs 119,000 euros pre-tax . In the future, the manufacturer wants to produce cheaper models in higher volumes.