A few start-ups, but also automotive giants, are starting to install solar panels on their new electric cars, promising a little extra range, but not yet driving by eye.
Under the hot sun of northern Spain, the “0”, the first production model of the start-up Lightyear, is collecting enough solar energy to travel more than 70 kilometers every day for free. Its front hood and long roof are covered with five square meters of solar panels.
Its founders, young Dutch engineers, have won several solar-powered races in the Australian desert. Taking advantage of the falling prices of photovoltaic panels and batteries, they are trying to apply this technology to everyday cars.
The highly aerodynamic body of the “0” and its wheel-mounted motors allow it to consume less energy than the electric SUVs that dominate the market, and to have a range of 625 kilometers on a single charge. With little driving, it could be plugged in only in winter, the brand promises.
“The time is changing: we must drive sustainably as soon as possible,” says one of its founders, Lex Hoefsloot, to AFP. “Charging stations remain a major obstacle. If we don’t need them, we can scale up much faster.”
Lightyear has set the bar high, with this first model built in less than 1,000 units and sporting a Bentley price tag, at 250,000 euros. An affordable version, around 30,000 euros, is announced for 2024-2025.