In 2019, Dutch EV startup Lightyear first unveiled a concept for a sleek hatchback with in-wheel motors and solar panels spanning the hood and roof. Production finally started on Wednesday at a plant in Uusikaupunki, Finland.
The new electric vehicle is called the Lightyear 0 and its production will be handled by Valmet, the contract manufacturer that once built the Fisker Karma range-extended electric vehicle. Valmet is also contracted to build the Sono Sion, another electric vehicle powered by solar panels.
The 0 is also, in a way, a range-extended electric vehicle. There are about 53 square feet of solar panels lining the hood and roof, and with adequate access to sunlight, they can be charged at a rate of 1.05 kW, according to Lightyear, or enough to extend the range by 6.2 miles in an hour to increase.
This means that as a commuter car, a 0 could potentially go for months on a full charge of the battery without recharging, depending on the length of the commute and access to sunlight.
The 0 features a 61.2kWh battery, which the company claims will deliver 388 miles of range on the WLTP test cycle used outside the US. This should still translate to nearly 300 miles on the more stringent cycle used by the EPA.
The key to such a long range with such a small battery is efficiency. In addition to a drag coefficient of just 0.175 cd, which is record-breaking for a production car, the 0 features efficient motors, inverters and tyres. The car has a claimed efficiency rate of 10.5 kWh per 62 miles, which is close to the efficiency of the Mercedes-Benz Vision EQXX concept car, which used 8.7 kWh per 62 miles in a recent field test.
Opting for in-wheel motors meant Lightyear was able to save weight and space by eliminating things like gears and driveshafts. The car weighs about 3,472 pounds, which is relatively light for a five-seat EV, and rides on specially designed Bridgestone-developed skinny tires.
The Lightyear 0 is currently exclusively available in Europe, where it starts at €250,000 (approx. US$262,100). Lightyear hasn’t said if the 0 will be available in the US
“Starting production of the Lightyear 0, the first solar car, brings us a big step closer to our mission of making mobility clean for everyone, everywhere,” said Lex Hoefsloot, CEO and co-founder of Lightyear, in a statement.
Not everyone will be able to afford an electric vehicle that costs six figures, but Lightyear is already working on a model that the company says will be affordable. It will be called Lightyear 2 and is expected to be launched in 2025.