“This is a mock test‘: The message from the people of Lightyear has the merit of being honest, as we prepare to take the wheel of one of the pre-production prototypes of this exotic ship from the Netherlands. A solar-powered car? Not entirely.
The Lightyear 0 is above all an electric car with a small 60 kWh battery, complemented by 5 square meters of solar panels that cover the maximum surface of this 5.08 metre vehicle. Thus, the hood, roof and tailgate are massive sensors ready to absorb the slightest precious beam to restore some current in the batteries, which Mother Nature provided.
However, its generosity has its limits, because in absolutely perfect sunshine conditions, Lightyear announces the possibility of recovering 11,000 km per year, or 70 km per day, that is, 7 months of 35 km daily travel without recharging, or 2 months under conditions less convenient. Conditions as in the country of origin of the vehicle.
More specifically, the onboard solar system can store a maximum power of 1 kWh, which reaches a maximum of 0.7 kWh during our testing under the veiled Spanish sun. Enough to share in the super-controlled consumption of this car, which is entirely designed to save energy.
Recycled carbon chassis with a mass of just 1,575 kg, an extremely low aerodynamic coefficient of 0.19, and optimized engines, enough to allow an official consumption of barely 10 kWh/100 km at a constant speed of 110 km/h , allowing for a range of up to 560 km, or 625 km on a combined cycle under the WLTP standard.
Thus, more than twenty kilometers at normal speed on the road and crossing villages, in quiet driving (this is a prototype of development!), We managed to note a consumption of 12.8 kWh / 100 km, which is still excellent if you consider it a car with the dimensions of a car Comfortable limousine. Comfort is precisely the priority in the development of this model, far from any desire for performance.
Indisputably sticking to the seat while accelerating from 0 to 100 km / h in 10 seconds, performance here is in efficiency. Visually, the 0 is somewhat reminiscent of the extremes of models intended for ultra-low consumption of their time, such as the Honda Insight or the VW XL1 aimed at a consumption of 1 l / 100 km. There are also commonalities with the modern Mercedes EQXX concept car, whose power consumption is also close.
Almost all technical elements of the car were developed by the Dutch start-up company, starting with engines installed in all four wheels (37 kg each) with a cumulative power of about 170 hp, which reaches an efficiency of 96% at its maximum. torque level. That’s huge, coming in at around 1,600 Nm, or even 1,725 Nm for a production model. Moreover, many aspects of this prototype frankly far from fully developed are called to change, explains Patrick Creevey, the development engineer and former Jaguar. Regeneration power, steering weight, quality of electronic mirrors: everything is still required for development …
Driving is fun if you put yourself in a state of mind that focuses on efficiency above all else, and appreciate the lack of wind noise, the general onboard silence of around 100 km/h and the comfort of the Recaro’s premium soft seats. An opportunity to detail a cabin that is still very close to a working concept at this point, dotted with eco-materials such as microfiber suede or palm wood. It looks like some parts are still made in 3D printing and the infotainment system is currently focused more on information than the rest, but there, too, work in progress…
The three single seat rear seats are very low oddly, with good leg length but feet too high to provide a very comfortable position. The lack of a tailgate window gives an unusual feeling of confinement. Fortunately, the extra-long trunk offers a large useful volume of 640 liters, enough to carry the luggage of solar adventurers.
However, if the efficiency of the whole is impressive, with 43 kilometers of autonomy gained throughout our test day under a veiled sky, this car promised to enter production in a few months looks far from finished, and a production model will lack some “details” which nonetheless benefit from driving smoothly and economically, such as semi-autonomous driving aids.
“After six years of testing, iteration, design, redesign, and countless obstacles, Lightyear 0 is proof that the impossible is indeed possible.Even the focus is on innovation,” says Lex Hoefsloot, young co-founder and CEO of Lightyear.
This is a thought-provoking project in every sense of the word. Thus one can only be tempted to dream of taking advantage of the free and unlimited energy, and the beauty of this venture. But one can also wonder about the feasibility of such an expensive car (250,000 euros!) and what would be the crazy rich 946 (the declared maximum figure) who would be willing to invest such an amount in a car that is light years away (light year). In English, so…) from premium dream models or super cars in this price zone.
Manufacturing the car is a huge challenge, but with 550 people of 38 nationalities working on the project and a partnership with Valmet Automotive in Finland, experienced and familiar with the small chain of major production manufacturers starting during this year, we can only take the project seriously.
But the real question is about a further future. The brand aims to build Lightyear 2 by 2025 to democratize its concept and move to mass production and a selling price of … 30,000 euros!
This is what the German company Sono Motors is trying to achieve with a fairly basic model of the solar MPV. Next, we enter a completely different dimension, that of a real car factory, with huge investments and approval restrictions going hand in hand. By then the solar cells could have gained efficiency, from 21% to 28%, so let’s hope this project works so that one day you can reduce your shipping bill on a daily car.
You just have to remember to park it outside.