In advanced solar power solutions, one name stands out. Dutch company Lightyear is taking on the world’s automakers with a revolutionary idea, clean mobility for all. It offers solar-powered driving that is more efficient than most of the current and upcoming EVs on the market and delivers a range of over 700km. The future of off-grid travel with no need for charging points is already here, and Lightyear’s ahead of the race. Lightyear One has been praised as the vehicle in the world that produces more energy used for driving. Yet Tom Selten, Lightyear’s business development manager and CEO Lex Hoefsloot insist—repeatedly—that “Lightyear is not an automotive company.”
Lightyear One is housed in a discreet building 15 kilometers from NXP’s Eindhoven headquarters. Besides its 700km range, it boasts a staggering 100-Watt hour efficiency and is designed to be the world’s most aerodynamic road vehicle. This sleek solar-powered machine was built by a team including former Tesla and Ferrari engineers and winners of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. Tom Selten tells us more about the engine of disruption, turning heads on the roads and sending shivers down the spines of traditional car makers.
Lightyear: There are around a billion vehicles on the planet right now, driving an average of more than 10,000 miles per year. So, every year, 10 trillion miles are driven on fossil fuels. Our vision is clean mobility for everyone, with a goal to drive one light year by 2035 on clean energy. That’s six trillion miles (nine trillion km). We want to show that there is an achievable alternative, a sustainable way to travel with clean energy. That’s also why our logo is the infinity symbol.
Lightyear: We are going to produce a small batch of these cars in the first place to show driving on solar directly can be done. Our gameplan is to invest in solar-energy technology that integrates the solar panel harmoniously and in a hyper-efficient powertrain, which ends-up in a high-volume vehicle. It’s really about clean mobility for everyone—it’s not about clean, super-expensive cars for the happy-few. Our customers right now are investors in a bright future. Right now it’s a car, but Lightyear is a technology company, which can foresee other ways to apply our technology. It can be implemented in other industries, or other sectors, or other kinds of mobility, like buses and boats.
Lightyear: We needed to create a number of unique technologies for this shift in the way people think about transport. One of these is our in-wheel motors, the other is our integrated solar panel. We integrated the panel within the car roof itself, which required a unique curved design. Because cars are constantly in motion, we also had to make the curved panel shock resistant. For our production models, we will produce an automotive-spec solar panel covering the complete car, something entirely new to the world. This is proprietary technology that Lightyear has really invested in and pushed for, further than the automotive companies have ever gone.
Lightyear: The roots of Lightyear could be traced back to Solar Team Eindhoven. A university team which is 4-time world champion in solar car racing. NXP was one of the first sponsors of this team and in all these years, a very strong partnership between Solar Team Eindhoven and NXP has grown. Now NXP, with strong connections to autonomous driving technologies and the automotive sector as a whole, is a true potential key partner for Lightyear. Together NXP and Lightyear could continue the success story.
Lightyear: Efficiency means doing more with what we already have instead of doing more with more, which our whole economy is based upon. Efficiency is not the goal itself, it’s more about redefining performance by making sure that we focus on efficiency. It’s not about the top speed, it’s not about acceleration, it’s about doing more with what we make use of. That’s why energy efficiency is key.
Lightyear: We believe it is possible to move to a situation where cars are grid-independent, where the link is cut between infrastructure and mobility. That makes our technology really scalable and affordable for a huge part of the world. Because a lot of people live in countries where they do not have a stable grid, they don’t live near charging points, so how are we going to provide them with electric mobility? That’s the grand vision. The endgame of Lightyear is making a car which can generate electricity so that it can power itself independently. No grid, no charging point, just the open road and freedom ahead.