The Maxeon solar panel technology by Sunpower will provide the solar power for Lightyear, the Helmond, Netherlands based start-up that builds a solar-powered electric car. The Lightyear One, of which the first prototype was presented last summer, will have a range of 725 km with a single charge. The Maxeon solar cells are seamlessly integrated into the bodywork, a first for a passenger car, according to the supplier. “It is a great honour to be the official strategic supplier of solar cells for Lightyear One and to support the company’s visionary spirit,” said a company spokesperson in a blog post on the company’s own website. “And we’ve actually always done that.”
In 2013, when the founders of Lightyear were still studying at the Eindhoven University of Technology, they built the Stella, an experimental solar car that was also powered by Maxeon solar cells and with which they participated in the World Solar Challenge. The three-passenger car drove more than 3,000 km through Australia at an average speed of 75 km/h. With this, they beat the entire competition. When the car also won the first prize in 2015, the collaboration with SunPower took further shape.
It was during this race that Lex Hoefsloot, CEO and co-founder of Lightyear, got the idea to continue this student project professionally. “We realised that we had built a concept vehicle that worked and was scalable,” he said. “We knew it was possible to build a solar-powered family car and accepted the challenge.”
Fourteen years earlier, SunPower founder Richard Swanson had a similar moment in the same World Solar Challenge. A streamlined car with SunPower solar panels, the Honda Dream, dominated the competition in 1993, and Swanson began to realise the enormous potential of his new company’s technology. “It didn’t just win the competition,” said Swanson, “it beat more than 50 contenders by a full day and shattered the previous record held by General Motors. It was that one particular adventure in the hot, arid Australian Outback that first put SunPower on the map.”
Lightyear is just one of the solar pioneers SunPower is working with. For example, ocean racer Phil Sharp, a double world record holder, has 260 Maxeon solar cells to power critical equipment aboard his Oceans Lab while the boat endures the extreme conditions at sea. According to Sharp, racing on the ocean is about pushing human and technological boundaries in order to win. “However,” he said, “there is a much bigger race at stake on our oceans: a race to zero emissions for maritime transport, to combat heavy pollution on the high seas.”
Raphael Domjan goes one step further with his Mission SolarStratos, a revolutionary aircraft made to fly at the edge of space. Domjan has no more than 22 square meters of usable surface area to let his Maxeon solar cells generate all the necessary energy. And all this while the plane resists strong winds, ruthless temperatures and unfiltered ultraviolet radiation.