Monday, 8 july 2019 | Redacción CEU
Electric cars are the future. This is a statement that few people would dare to question. Norway is an example of how advanced this new electrical paradigm is. The country has shown that the transition, apart from being possible, may win over the public – the electric sales in Norway reach 48% of the total amount–. In Spain, even though overall vehicle sales are decreasing, electric-car sales are rising. Despite these data and the fact that carmakers are working hard on new ideas and designs, there are still two pending obstacles to the consolidation of this new model: autonomy range and the number of charging stations. This is a problem that the Dutch brand Lightyear expects to solve with an original and, of course, sustainable proposal: a solar car.
Lightyear One is a solar car that boasts a stunning autonomy of 725 kilometers –according to the WLTP cycle, the closest to real driving parameters–. It is a vehicle that provides ultrafast charging and five square meters of solar panels. The Dutch firm claims that they can obtain with them 20% more energy than with the traditional ones. In addition, the cells of these panels work independently, since if part of the roof is in the shade, the vehicle continues transforming light into energy.
This is not the first proposal that finds in the sun an alternative, cheap and renewable source, but it is one of the first to reach market. According to Lightyear, this solar car will be on the road in 2021. In fact, the first hundred cars have already been reserved, and now they have opened an additional reservation period for five hundred units.
To be honest, it is important to note that this vehicle is not powered only by solar energy. The Lightyear One is also plugged in, like any electric car. However, the carmaker says that with a normal 230V socket, you can enjoy a range of 340 kilometers in one night; with a fast charge, 570 kilometers in an hour. That is, the charge is faster than the conventional one as well as the autonomy it reaches with it. In addition, thanks to sunlight, you get an additional 12 km/h. You extend the range as you drive. Therefore, the autonomy also depends on the weather and the use of the car made by the driver.
The Dutch firm estimates: "Someone driving the national average of 20,000 km/year in the cloudy Netherlands would get about 40% of their mileage from solar energy". On the other hand, this startup has also taken into account situations such as accidentally running out of battery. In that case, you can drive up to 15 to 20 km/h with the sunlight which is absorbed by the sunroof and the hood. Of course, this is a last resort.
The Lightyear One is a four-door sedan with capacity for five passengers that has a length of 5,057 mm, a width of 1,898 mm and a height of 1,426 mm. It is a vehicle that has four engines, one for each wheel, which work independently. Thanks to this fact, drivers may experience a greater control. With regard to its design, what draws attention is its aerodynamic body in the shape of a tear-drop. Another curious detail is that its rear wheels are partially covered by the body. On it, two arches are drawn simulating the opening where the rear wheels should be. However, as it is still a prototype, some details might change over the months.
As we mentioned above, Lightyear is not the only brand which works on the design and marketing of a solar car. One of its main rivals is Sono Motors, the German startup behind Sono Sion. This firm promises 34 additional kilometers of autonomy. It competes in price: 25,500 euros as opposed to 149,000 euros. In what cannot compete this vehicle is in autonomy; it only covers 250 kilometers.
On the other hand, we cannot forget Stella Vie which is a design of the University of Technology of Eindhoven that won the World Solar Challenge of 2017 (a contest in which solar vehicles travel 3,000 kilometers through the desert of Australia, from Darwin to Adelaide). It is a vehicle with an unconventional design, but with 1,000 kilometers of autonomy.
Toyota is yet another firm that works in this direction. Together with NEDO and Sharp in Japan, at the end of this month, the company will test its Toyota Prius PHEV, which is a car equipped with solar panels. The particularity of this vehicle is that, according to the firm, it will be able to be charged with solar energy regardless of whether it is driven or not.
Undoubtedly, the automotive industry works intensively in the development of more efficient and sustainable cars. This is the reason why they need professionals that are up to the challenges that the sector comes across. The CEU IAM Business School has designed a Master's Degree in the Automotive Industry Businesses in order to convey a deep knowledge of this business to its students. It is a training program that offers the possibility of doing professional internships in companies in the automotive industry.