Dutch car maker Lightyear has unveiled the first ‘long-range’ solar car that’s claimed to provide customers with around 12,400 miles of motoring a year using free energy captured from the sun.
The Lightyear One was unveiled on Tuesday priced at €149,000 – around £134,000. Customers who want to secure one of the first 500 ‘pioneer’ examples with need to pay a reservation fee of €119,000 (£106,166).
The car, which has five square metres of solar panels on the roof and bonnet, is claimed to have a range of 725 kilometres (450 miles) from a full charge of the relatively small battery powering the vehicle.
With Department for Transport calculating that the average motorist covers 7,134 miles annually, it means Britons could drive all-year-round for free – granted the sun comes out for long enough to charge the One’s battery.
An overnight charge from a 230-volt socket will provide customers with 400km of range, around 250 miles.
Lex Hoefsloot, ceo and co-founder of Lightyear said the car ‘represents a new era of driving’.
‘Two years of dreaming, thinking and working hard have led to this milestone, which is a giant leap towards achieving our mission of making clean mobility available to everyone.’
Lightyear was founded in 2016 by the Solar Team Eindhoven, which won the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in 2013, 2015 and 2017.
Development of the long-range solar One has received several awards, grants and support from key investors.
Just 500 first-run ‘pioneer’ models will be made, though 100 of them have already been claimed by customers.
Each one will cost €149,000 – so around £134,000 – or motorists can lease one for €1,879 (£1,677) a month.
‘This allowed us to develop a working prototype for the first long-range solar car in just two years,’ Hoefsloot added.
‘We have already sold over a hundred vehicles. With Lightyear One, we want to show that our technology enabled us to build one of the most sustainable cars on the market that also offers great convenience.’
Hoefsloot said the One would resolve the issue of range anxiety – the fear of running out of battery power in an electric car.
By overcoming this hurdle, he said the One will become the world’s first ‘ultra efficient’ vehicle.
‘The main goal of the car is to fill in where electric cars fall short,’ he continued.
‘Research has shown that range and the lack of charging options are still the top concerns that people have when considering electric cars.’
Lightyear says car itself is constructed from high-tech composite materials so that it is super light – to extend the range – but strong enough to withstand crash impacts and pass stringent safety regulations.
The design is super aerodynamic in a bid to reduce drag and, again, extended the range.
The roof and bonnet is made up of a combined five square meters of integrated solar cells in safety glass.
The Dutch car firm says construction of these is so strong that a fully-grown adult can walk on them without causing damage.
In addition to solar power, Lightyear One can be charged at a (fast) charging station or even a regular outlet, it added.
Hoefsloot said the One was the first in a range of models from the brand, which is also working on autonomous systems for its upcoming vehicles.
‘Since new technology has a high unit cost, we have to start in an exclusive market; Lightyear One is the first long-range solar car and has staggering specifications,’ he continued.
‘The next models we plan to develop will have a lower purchase price. In addition, future models will be provided to autonomous and shared car fleets, so the purchase price can be divided amongst a large group of users.’
He added: ‘Combined with the low operating costs of the vehicle, we aim to provide premium mobility for a low price per kilometer.
‘A third, final step will be to provide truly sustainable cars that are more affordable to use than the cost of gas you need to drive a combustion car.
‘This will prove to be our most important tipping point in the near future, and it will pave the way for a car fleet that is one hundred percent sustainable.’
Images of the interior reveal a minimalist cabin with a clutter-free dashboard and hard-wearing recycled materials.
The central unit is dominated by an iPad-size touchscreen. This will house the infotainment system but also provide information about remaining charge and live updates for the volume of energy being collected from the sun.
Anyone who wants to get their hands on a One will need to reserve one of the 400 cars that currently don’t have a name on them. This can be done at the Lightyear website.
Production is due to be ramped up in 2021 at the firm’s own facility in Helmond, just outside of Eidhoven.
It currently employs around 100 staff and in the last two years has raised over 20million euros from reservations, investments and grants.