Lightyear has unveiled the first prototype of the Lightyear One, an electric vehicle covered in solar panels that it plans to start delivering to consumers in 2021. The car company was founded in 2016 by ex-members of Solar Team Eindhoven, a team of engineering students who won the solar-powered World Solar Challenge race in 2013, 2015, and 2017.
While the team claims that the car will get 450 miles (725 km) of range from its built-in battery, the real draw is the car’s five square meters of solar panels, which cover its roof and hood and can charge the car’s battery with up to 12 km of range an hour. Lightyear claims these solar cells are 20 percent more efficient than traditional models, and they’re encased in safety glass to protect them from damage.
Twelve kmh isn’t a lot of charge, so it’s probably better to think of the Lightyear One “solar car” as a 450-mile electric car that also happens to have solar panels. If true, that would be a pretty impressive range by itself, outpacing the market-leading 370 miles of range that the Tesla Model S is capable of, even taking into account differences in electric vehicle range standards.
Thankfully, considering how little power you’re going to get from sunlight, the Lightyear One can also be charged like a more traditional plug-in electric vehicle. It will support up to 60kW of fast charging, giving it 507 km of range per hour of charge. The car has a total of four electric motors, which will allow it to accelerate from 0 to 100 kmh in 10 seconds.
Lightyear was founded by a group of former University of Eindhoven students who won the World Solar Challenge race with their “Stella” solar cars. These vehicles were actually able to generate more power from their solar panels than they consumed on average, meaning you could end a journey with more charge than when you started.
Lightyear is taking preorders for the first 500 Lightyear One cars now for a reservation price of €119,000 (around $135,000). The car itself is expected to have a starting price of €149,000 (around $170,000). Electrek reports that production is expected to start at a slow rate at first, and Lightyear did not provide too many details on how it’s manufacturing the cars. That high asking price could also be a tough sell. For that money, you could probably buy yourself a top-of-the-line electric car, install solar panels on your house, and still come away with change. Plus, the increased power output of your panels could mean your electric car is technically more solar-powered overall.