(CNN) – The Dutch company Lightyear has announced that this fall it will begin manufacturing the world’s first production vehicle equipped with solar panels.
The Lightyear 0 will have curved solar panels on the roof, hood and trunk that will recharge the electric battery while driving (or staying parked) and first deliveries could be in Europe as early as November.
The company claims that the car will be able to travel about 624.4 kilometers without stopping to recharge, and will have an additional range of up to 70.8 kilometers per day thanks to the solar panels. For comparison, this is slightly more than the Tesla Model 3 (601 kilometers), and it is much more than the Kia Niro Long Range (458 kilometers).
According to Lightyear, each hour in the sun will add up to six miles, or 9 kilometers, of charge to the battery. The solar range will provide an extra dose of mileage for those long trips, but it also means you’ll spend less time at charging points, or you may not need it at all. The company says that in a hot country such as Spain or Portugal, if the daily trip is less than 35 kilometers, it will not be necessary to deliver the car for up to seven months. In cloudy weather, such as Holland, the car should be charged after two months.
Smaller battery, lighter car
The number “0” has a lot in common with the Lightyear One prototype unveiled two years ago, but it’s able to do more with a smaller battery, says company CEO and co-founder Lex Hoefsloot.
“The transmission is the most efficient in the world,” he says, adding that the car’s aerodynamic shape and four in-wheel motors allow the smaller battery to provide the same range.
This means that “the whole car is lighter,” he says, “and you get into this feedback loop where everything can be lighter as well. And so we were able to get 3,000 pounds. If you compare other cars that offer the same autonomy, all of them are 40% heavier.
Other companies are developing cars with solar panels, but none of them are ready to enter the market yet. Sono Sion, scheduled for production in 2023, promises to deliver an average of 16 kilometers of solar autonomy per day. The Aptera Never Charge is a futuristic-looking three-wheeled vehicle that the company says will collect about 40 miles of solar energy per day. Aptra told CNN that it expects the car to go into production in 2023, and that it already has 24,000 reservations.
However, while the Lightyear 0 concept is based on improving efficiency and reducing charging time, its top speed is only 160 km/h, and the 0-100 km/h time is slow. 10 seconds, something Hoefsloot admits is due to focusing on the range.
It’s pricey, too: One launch model will cost 946,250,000 euros ($262,000), which is just over the Ferrari Roma and some distance from a mid-range family electric car like the Nissan Leaf ($27,000 in the US) or a Tesla Model. 3 (about $50,000 USD).
The company hopes to launch a “model for the public”, tentatively called the Lightyear Two, in 2025, which will sell for around €30,000 (US$31,215).