One of the first questions asked by people looking at electric cars is why it doesn8217;t have solar panels in the bodywork for charging all the time. Well, that8217;s what Lightyear One have done, packing in 5 square metres of solar panels in the roof and bonnet of its new car.
That allows the internal battery to charge from daylight, meaning that this is a car that8217;s charging when you8217;re on the road. Lightyear says that it will charge at up to 12km/h and if you think about that in terms of the charge you could get when the car is just sitting in a car park while you8217;re at the beach 8211; and you can see why this is a dream worth chasing.
The Lightyear One is a luxury saloon. The company admits that there are high costs involved 8211; and indeed the asking price for one of the 500 planned production models is €119,000 (£106k). But Lightyear says that it has already sold 100 models.
The solar panels themselves are encased in safety glass, while the rest of the car has been designed to be a light as possible. We imagine that the weight of that glass is fairly considerable, but elsewhere the car is designed to be as aerodynamic as possible, with a cited range of 725km (WLTP) 8211; with the company saying it will guarantee a 400km (248 miles) range in winter.
The benefits you get depend on how much sunlight you get and that8217;s going to vary from summer to winter for many people. In London, in winter, Lightyear says you8217;ll only get 7km from the solar panels. Fortunately, those long summer days will give you a lot more, like 52km.
Of course the solar charging is there as a back-up to the normal plug-in options, but the solar panels are designed to be hugely efficient too. They work independently, so if any of it is in shade, the other areas will continue to harvest energy.
The car itself has four motors, one for each wheel and offers a 0-62mph time of 10 seconds. It8217;s not lightning quick, but that8217;s probably to keep the efficiency high. The car will charge at a range of speed from plugs, the fastest rate listed is 60kW.
There8217;s seating for five with 780-litres of luggage space, as well as support for tech like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
The Lightyear One is an interesting car, making the solar dream into a reality. Lightyear say that they want to make this dream something that everyone can benefit from so the question is whether this remains as a luxury car or if the technology can trickle down to more affordable future electric cars.