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Will solar-powered ‘Lightyear One’ be shining light for UK motor industry?

‘A new dawn’. A ‘clean mobility revolution’. ‘The most aerodynamic 5-seater to date’.

These are just a few of the eye-opening phrases being used to describe the new Lightyear One, an all-electric car that uses solar energy, as well as traditional plug-in technology, to offer up to 450 miles of range.

And if the figures being quoted by Lightyear translate to the road, the ‘One’ could be a real game-changer.

First things first - who is Lightyear, exactly?

It’s a Dutch company, based in a town called Helmond just to the east of Eindhoven, and led by the brilliantly-named CEO Lex Hoefsloot. The firm was launched in 2016, and with specialist engineers having moved to Lightyear from automotive giants Ferrari and Tesla.

Where does the name come from? Well, as Hoefsloot explains, all of the cars in the world, combined, drive around 9.5 trillion kilometres per year. That distance, in astronomical terms, is a ‘light year’.

And the ‘One’ exploits sustainability principles to potentially give the EV car leasing market a meteoric shake-up.

At the heart of the one is a small battery that’s supplemented by five square metres of solar panels that run across the top of the car. Those panels are encased in safety glass and abide by strict auto industry regulations.

Lightyear says that, thanks to the solar panels, you can ‘drive for months without charging’. And When you drill-down on the stats, they’re impressive.

On a sunny day, the solar panels alone can provide enough charge to travel 43 miles per day. At their optimum, they will offer up to 7.5 miles worth of range per hour.

Don’t forget that you’ve also got a traditional EV battery that charges when you plug it in. And so the two systems combine to offer up to 450 miles of range on a single charge. It also supports 60 kW fast charging.

These are not ‘pie in the sky’ figures. 

Lightyear recently tested the One, driving it around a track at a speed of around 52mph. The One managed to rack-up 440 miles - as you can see from this YouTube video - giving an energy consumption figure of around 83 Wh/km.

To those au fait with those sorts of details, the lower the ‘Wh/km’ figure, the more efficient the lease vehicle is. And when you consider something like the Nissan Leaf has a rating of 165 Wh/km, you can see just how capable the Lightyear One is.

Read our helpful guide to kWh and kW explained, here!

You needn’t be worried about performance, either.

The Lightyear One has four independently controlled, in-wheel motors to provide colossal peak torque of 1,920 Nm while it should be able to accelerate from 0-62mph in less than 10 seconds.

It’s also a proper ‘family car’, with space for five adults and 780 litres of luggage space - much more than both the Porsche Taycan and the Tesla Model X.

And on top of that, you can expect all the usual creature comforts a modern lease car has to offer, including wireless phone charging, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

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Tuesday, 10/05/2022