The Lightyear One is a long-range solar-powered electric vechicle.
The Lightyear One is a long-range solar-powered electric vechicle.
( Source: Lightyear)

Solar car technology Solar car technology at tipping point of mass adoption in electric vehicles

| Author / Editor: Erika Granath / Jochen Schwab

The tipping point for solar car technology has arrived. One indicator is the rapidly increasing number of car companies that are incorporating solar bodywork that significantly increases range or reduces battery size.

In 2020, the two startups Sono Motors's and Lightyear's will bring their solar family cars to market. Lightyear's Lightyear One and Sono Motors's Sion have solar bodies rather than the typical solar roof. That means many owners will never plug in.

IDTechEx CEO: "Solar is a new key enabling technology"

Solar-powered cars run faster and more smoothly than petrol and diesel engine vehicles. However, until very recently, their record range came in weak compared with cars running on traditional fuel.

Now, Lightyear One achieves a record 740 km range with half the battery needed if it was at the previously best drag factor and powertrain efficiency (Tesla cars without solar).

"We are clearly at the tipping point for adoption of solar on land, water, and air vehicles, particularly on pure electric ones where range sells. There are now camper vans, delivery trucks, robot shuttles, buses, boats and even aircraft getting at least 10% and often all of their electricity from daylight. Many find it useful even on the sides of their vehicles. Any designer of any electric vehicle must now seriously consider solar bodywork. It is a new key enabling technology," says Raghu Das, CEO of analysts IDTechEx.

Lightyear was founded by a group of former University of Eindhoven students who won the World Solar Challenge race with their “Stella” solar cars in 2013, 2015, and 2017.
Lightyear was founded by a group of former University of Eindhoven students who won the World Solar Challenge race with their “Stella” solar cars in 2013, 2015, and 2017.
(Source: Pietro Carrieri/Lightyear)

Lightyear One: Accelerates from 0 to 100 km in 10 seconds

The Sono and Lightyear solar cars don't have the acceleration of a Tesla. However, Lightyear One's total of four electric motors still allow it to accelerate from 0 to 100 km in 10 seconds. And, as the company cheekily points out int a press release: Lightyear One will go 740 km faster than any Tesla because the Tesla would have to stop and plug in.

Tesla recently joined the solar party with its Cybertruck

However, sooner rather than later, Tesla might get the upper hand in the solar car game. Last November, Tesla joined the solar party with an option on its Cybertruck. At the launch, Elon Musk said:

"There will be an option to add solar power that generates 15 miles per day, possibly more. I would love this to be self-powered. Adding fold-out solar wings would generate 30 to 40 miles per day. Average miles per day in the U.S. is 30."

The Cybertruck starts at $39,900 for the single-motor rear-wheel-drive version and goes up to $69,900 for the tri-motor all-wheel-drive version; self-driving features are a $7,000 add-on. Production is expected to begin in late 2021.
The Cybertruck starts at $39,900 for the single-motor rear-wheel-drive version and goes up to $69,900 for the tri-motor all-wheel-drive version; self-driving features are a $7,000 add-on. Production is expected to begin in late 2021.
(Source: Tesla)

Squad City Solar: a pioneer in the affordable solar car segment

Only days after that Tesla's Cybertruck was unveiled, the announcement of Squad City Solar car came. If Lightyear One is miles from Tesla's acceleration, the Squad is lightyears away (pun intended).

The Squad's top speed is shy 45 km per hour. This 2-person solar car for daily (sub)urban mobility is being developed by two ex-Lightyear employees who share a desire to develop an affordable solar car for a large group of consumers. Retail price starts at a mere € 5750 (ex. VAT), so it's indeed very affordable.

The Squad offers space for two passengers sitting side by side, and a storage compartment in the back. Two children (up to 1.25 m) can sit on rear seats where legally permitted.

This article was first published at Intelligent Mobility Xperience.