The idea behind it Lightyear Projecta Dutch company founded by some students who were part of the team at Eindhoven Solar Team won several editions of the World Solar Challenge, very simple and that’s it use solar energy to recharge batteries in an electric car using panels integrated directly into the car. In this way it is not only possible to increase the autonomy of a car, but also to reduce its “dependence” on the columns for providing energy.
Starting from this idea and thanks to the skills acquired in the development of the cars for the World Solar Challenge, the Dutch startup was introduced in 2019 Lightyear One, the first prototype of a solar-powered car. After several years of development that we told you about several times over the course of time, in early June the company unveiled the Lightyear 0, basically the production version of the solar-powered car.
Models that, we remind you, will be produced in fair 946 specimens. For Lightyear, this car represents a kind of manifesto of the technology it could develop. It is over a starting point for an ambitious growth plan. What has been learned, in fact, will be poured into a new model in the future, called at the moment Lightyear Two, which will be much more accessible with high volume products.
A couple of weeks after Lightyear 0’s presentation, HDMotori flew to Spain to see this new solar electric car nearby. We also had the opportunity to try it, although for a few miles, test its potential.
THERE IS A LITTLE ITALY
We know Lightyear 0’s design quite well as we have written about this car several times. The Lightyear team, with whom we talked a lot, shows the great work he has done for optimize aerodynamics to the maximum, with the goal of improving the efficiency of the machine as much as possible. The result, data in hand, is a Cx at 0.19. For example, the choice to partially cover the rear wheels has reduced energy consumption by 1.9%. The particular aerodynamic design of the wheel rims, on the other hand, allowed a reduction in energy consumption of 3.5%. No exterior mirrors traditional. In their place, external cameras show the images inside two mini displays in the passenger compartment.
This aerodynamic optimization work did not affect the space on the board. 5 people can ride and travel comfortably inside the passenger compartment. Also, thanks to the car’s long shape, there trunk it’s really very big. Lightyear declares a capacity of 640 liters.
The car was designed from scratch, starting with a blank sheet. There is also a bit of Italy in this project. Indeed, the design of the car was made from Granstudio in Turin. Remember that Lightyear 0 measurements 5,083mm length x 1,972mm width x 1,445mm high. The weight is 1,575 kg.
The sustainability issue is also very important for Lightyear. For this, durable materials are used for the interior. The infotainment has a 10.1-inch touch screen and OTA updates are supported.
IT IS CHARGED TO THE SUN
Lightyear 0 has a propeller train with 4 electric motors, one per wheel (97% efficiency). The power in general is 130 kW. Speaking of performance, the top speed is 160km / h while passing from 0 to 100 km / h it takes 10 seconds. Over the years, electricians have been familiar to us with significant power and performance. The philosophy behind Lightyear is, however, different. The goal is efficiencyin order to offer the maximum possible distance.
For engine power, one 60 kWh battery (NMC) coolant that allows you to have a distance up to 625 km according to the WLTP cycle. The Lightyear 0, of course, can be recharged in the traditional way, from a common column. The company officially provides information on charges in a different way than what we usually see. Instead of specifying the power in kW, it provides the mileage data that can be recovered with an hourly charge.
Therefore, in direct current, it is possible to recover up to 520 km in an hour. In any case, we learned that in direct current, the battery can be recharged up to a maximum power of 50 kW. Speaking of efficiency, for this electric car, Lightyear stated a consumption of just 10.5 kWh per 100 km. The even more interesting fact is that there speed 110 km / hthe car is capable drive for another 560 km with a full energy. If these numbers are confirmed by real road tests, it will be a truly remarkable result.
Solar technology is obviously the flagship of this car. Lightyear has worked hard on this front, making important steps forward over time. LA photovoltaic panels they are placed on the bonnet and on the roof of the car, for a total surface area 5 square meters. In optimal conditions, the integrated solar system allows the battery to recharge at a maximum power 1.05 kW.
All this translates into the possibility of having a extra maximum 70 km of travel per day thanks to the energy of the Sun. According to Lightyear, it is possible to have on average up to 11,000 km more per year, obviously free. Still in ideal climatic conditions, such as those in Spain, assuming the average classic daily route of 35 km, it would be possible to drive for 7 months without having to recharge.
Lightyear said its solar charging technology will also be offered to other companies and car manufacturers in the future.
HOW IS IT GOING? FIRST ROAD TEST
Up here the numbers are cold. But how is Lightyear 0 really going? As mentioned at the beginning, we had the chance to take a short driving test of this new electric car. It must be said that the car is used it was not yet in the final version. Some aspects still need to be refined. The first deliveries, however, remain scheduled for the end of the year.
That the car was always a “prototype” was also apparent in the presence of some elements of the interior that were not definitive and so the big red button which is used to “close everything” in case of problems.
It must be said right away that the car is very spacious. I exceeded 180 cm in height and had no problems with find good driving position (the seat has electric adjustment). No problem even for the head or legs. Therefore, space was not lacking. Judging the comfort of the seat is not, however, possible since the test drive lasted just over ten km all on a state road.
The rear mirrors are digital. The internal displays of the car did not offer high definition and were perhaps even a little too small. The visibility, therefore, was not the best. However, as they told me, they are not definitive. From this point of view there will be an important step forward.
I have not been able to test all the functions of the infotainment system, based on Android Automotive OS, because it is not yet complete. In any case, there functions related to data consumption and recharging they are well designed. The screens showing how much the Sun is contributing in terms of recharging and which solar panels are generating electricity at the moment are very nice. Obviously there is an app, already downloaded on the Play Store and App Store which, at the moment, only provides some statistics on the autonomy and on the recharge of the Sun. In the future, obviously, many more functions will occur.
But how does it go along the way? The first approach was positive. With this car you get comfortable in really no time even if you notice that there are some things that still need to be adjusted. For example, it the steering was particularly difficult to maneuver.
The technician who was with me, nurse required when testing prototypes, explained to me that they still have to carry out several refinements and optimize the level of powertrain, regenerative braking, steering and suspension. Properly driven with one pedal which is one of the most interesting features of electric cars: I appreciate this feature especially in the vicinity of roundabouts and some short urban stretches and only the tuning of the regeneration is missing, a necessary calibration because during the test the recovery power never exceeded. 26 kW.
Acceleration response is good: the car is certainly not sporty and is designed for efficiency, but thanks to the immediately available power it can drive pleasantly. Obviously this aspect should be further explored on a different and longer path.
Speaking of consumption, my test ended with 105.5 Wh / km. A promising result that I would like to deepen with a longer trial.
How many solar panels contribute? The test drive was carried out at 8:20 in the morning with 21 degrees of external temperature and the air conditioning set at comfort temperature and still active. And the sun is still lowat their best, the panels produced a peak power about 0.4 kW.
As mentioned at the beginning, the Lightyear 0 will be produced in 946 units. The price is important and it is equal to 250,000 euros. It is, as the company pointed out, a machine designed to show the technologies they could create.
Then what has been learned will be transferred to future models that will be much more accessible. The Lightyear Two, in fact, should arrive on the market between 2024 and 2025 for a prices start around 30,000 euros.
[Aggiornato 23/06/2022 con il video]