Truly sustainable technology.
So what does a “solar car” look like? Well, the Lightyear One is covered with 1,000 solar panels and delivers a remarkable 450-mile battery range, exceeding that of even the Tesla Model S Long Range Plus. Four in-wheel motors (all-wheel drive) provide a total of just over 100 HP, saving weight and energy, with a 0 to 60 mph time of “less than” 10 seconds.
Taking a page from Tesla, Lucid, Rivian, and most other successful EV startups, the first product—cleverly dubbed Lightyear One—will be a big, roomy, expensive sedan. Its exterior dimensions almost perfectly match those of a Mercedes CLS-Class. That 16-foot-long-plus fastback bodywork makes room for 54 square feet of solar cells (rear-view cameras compensate for the obscured rear visibility).
No interior dimensions have been shared, but because it employs four in-wheel motors, the packaging space should be huge, and the hatchback and fold-down seats provide the seats-up/down luggage space of a Nissan Rogue SUV.
With solar cells covering the hood and everything that’s mostly horizontal from the top of the windshield to the trailing edge of the hatch, Lightyear claims this setup can add about 7 miles of electricity per hour while parked under ideal circumstances, and that validation prototypes typically add 25 miles’ worth of solar energy to the battery on cloudy days. The car is charging itself anytime the sun is shining, but when it’s driving, it’s probably consuming most of that charge.
Performance comes from new SunPower interdigitated back-contact photovoltaic cells mount to Endurans Solar conductive backplates — a long explanation for why the Lightyear’s hood and roof look completely black, without silver conductors framing discrete solar collector patches. This not only helps the car look better, it maximizes photovoltaic area, minimizes cell-to-module power losses and delivers a 3-percent increase in power output.
Parked in the sun all day, some Americans may get their daily commuting mileage covered for free. As for battery range, there are no official EPA estimates yet, but Europe’s more optimistic WLTP test cycle pegs the Lightyear One’s range at 450 miles. And since government range tests are conducted on indoor dynamometers, none of those miles is solar. That’s a long range for a large car to achieve on a modest 60-kWh pack. Lightyear credits next-level efficiency for this.