Lightyear, a company founded by World Solar Challenge-winning engineering students in 2016, has revealed the prototype for its new solar car — and if it works as advertised — it's going to be impressive to see out in the world.
The Lightyear One, a five-seater car that runs on four independently controlled electric motors housed in its wheels, is now taking reservations from consumers for a release in 2021. The sleek, aerodynamically optimized vehicle sports a number of intriguing feature, but perhaps the most impressive is its purported driving range: 725 kilometers, or 450 miles.
That range, helped along by a recharge boost provided by the solar panels embedded in the car's roof, would put Lightyear ahead of Tesla in terms of current electric car ranges, because the Lightyear One is indeed more accurately an electric car with an added solar power boost than it is an entirely solar powered car, but that's only because not everyone will be able to charge it with the sun all the time. While the company's website estimates a driver in a country like The Netherlands could get up to 40 percent of their driving energy from solar charging, it is technically possible for the car to charge up to 100 percent of your driving needs entirely through its solar panels.
The solar panels themselves can only charge about 12 kilometers, or 7.5 miles, per hour (fast charging through the car's plug-in system will get you up to 570km in an hour), and they come with numerous other benefits. For one thing, they'll keep charging your car while you're driving in the sun. For another, each cell is independent, which means partial shade will still get you a partial charge. Plus, if your battery dies, you can still drive on the strength of the solar panels alone at a low speed until you're able to get to a charger, and the panels are under safetly glass strong enough that they won't break even when someone is walking on them.
The Lightyear One is priced at 149,000 Euros, or almost $170,000, with lease plans starting in the $2,100 range. If you've got that kind of cash, and you're interested in what could be the next breakthrough wave of electric cars, go check it out.