The electric car is much better for our planet than its gas-guzzling counterpart. But charging stations are few and far between. Lightyear, a new automobile company, aims to solve this dilemma with a solar-powered electric car.
Science Fiction Became Science Fact… With Some Flaws
The electric car was nonexistent just a few years ago. Nowadays, it is not so unusual to see a Tesla Model 3 or Chevy Bolt sprinkled into the mix of rush hour traffic. Leaps forward in battery efficiency have allowed these vehicles to become a reality. But this new industry still has a few “hiccups” to overcome before it can become mainstream.
One of the biggest challenges for electric vehicles is their charging stations, or rather, lack thereof. Finding a charging station can prove to be difficult in many areas. Lack of investment in charging station infrastructure has in turn impeded mass adoption of electric vehicles. It is a real problem. Convenience is one of the biggest factors in adoption of a new technology. No dependable charging network is a deal breaker for most people when considering an electric car.
“Only 3% of the world population lives within 100 km of a publicly accessible charging station.”
Run by the Sun
The above quote comes from the website of Lightyear, a Dutch startup on a mission to create a solar-powered car. If the quote is true, it is easy to see how this would hamper mass adoption of electric vehicles. If Lightyear achieves its lofty goal, it could transform the electric vehicle industry. Bypassing the need for a charging station infrastructure could drastically increase the number of electric cars we see on the road.
Last week, Lightyear revealed its concept of a 4-door sedan that can continuously charge its battery via solar panels located inside the car’s body. According to Lightyear, the car, fittingly dubbed the Lightyear One, can travel up to 800 kilometers (500 miles) when the battery is fully charged. Lightyear also claims that its car could possibly be driven for months without a charging session if in an ideal region constantly showered with sun.
Even if not located in a sunny place like Hawaii or Colorado, the Lightyear One’s battery can apparently be configured to store an energy buffer ranging from 400 to 800 kilometers before running out of juice. This would definitely come in handy for road trips through overcast areas with no charging stations nearby.
Of course, the Lightyear One can also charge through conventional means. It should deliver about 40 kilometers (25 miles) of driving from one hour of charging through a standard electrical outlet. But instead of just taking energy, Lightyear says that its vehicle can also give it back too.
The Lightyear One’s battery can transfer stored solar power to buildings and other electric vehicles. This is similar to how utility companies and people using blockchain are feeding extra energy from solar systems back into the grid. Using a car to do this would be a new twist on this practice.
The Sky is the Limit
“Currently, all cars of the world combined drive one light year, every year… Our goal is to accelerate the adoption of electric cars so that by 2030, one light year will have been driven electric.”
If Lightyear is successful in delivering on their promise, the possibilities for future iterations of their solar-powered vehicles could cause ripples in transportation as we know it. The company plans to produce 10 cars in 2019 and 100 more in 2020. You can reserve one for a down payment of about $21,700 towards its total price of $135,800.
The technology that Lightyear’s debut vehicle relies on has only been showcased in demos and prototypes so far. Since the startup is still in its infancy, producing 10 cars in 2019 is no small feat. How they plan to produce 100 more the following year is shrouded in mystery. The company has mentioned that manufacturing the car will require a “revolutionary production process” and that they already have the support of numerous industry partners.
While the unveiling of the Lightyear One garnered some skepticism, Lightyear’s founders consist of former members of the Eindhoven Solar Team. This team was behind the creation of Stella, a Lightyear One predecessor that gained lots of media attention in 2014 due to its ingenuity. The startup certainly seems to have the credentials to make their vision a reality. Lightyear’s main mission is for electric cars to have been driven one whole light year by 2030. That is equivalent to about 6 trillion miles.