Lightyear has selected a Tesla Model 3 and a Volkswagen Crafter LCV as research vehicles for modified solar roof integration projects. We last met Lightyear at CES in January when they presented their concept Lightyear One, solar-powered EV.
At the time, they were there to show off Lightyear One and didn't mention to us their plans to integrate their solar technology into other vehicles s has been modified with a solar roof as part of Lightyear’s solar car development program.
The two vehicles are numbered Research Vehicles 005 and 006 and are Lightyear's latest developments serving to validate Lightyear’s solar EV technology and design choices. The vehicles can regularly be seen driving around the area of Lightyear’s Headquarters, located in the city of Helmond, The Netherlands.
Lightyear One has 54 sq. ft. of solar panel surface which, under the right conditions, can generate about 5-6 kWh of electricity per day. Since Lightyear One is lightweight and extremely efficient, 5-6 kWh of electricity is enough to power the vehicle for about 45 miles. Lightyear's emphasis on efficiency pays off, and company representatives told me that the consumption will be as low as 135 Wh/mile which converts to about 7.5 miles per kWh.
With their integrated solar technology, the Lightyear Research Vehicles will help to demonstrate the added value of integrated solar panels on vehicles, as they drive around measuring solar yield.
Lightyear is using Sunpower's Maxeon solar cells in the modified roofs of the Model 3 and Volkswagen LCV. The company announced that by the end of 2020, it will soon launch its seventh research vehicle. Research Vehicle 007 will be a validation prototype that includes the combination of Lightyear’s solar, in-wheel motor, and battery technology.
We're happy to see Lightyear appears to be branching out to at least consider making solar roof options for vehicles other than their own. Solar roofs on EVs are something that most EV enthusiasts would love to see. However, to date, the cost of the solar roof integration and the weight penalty of carrying it around exceeds the benefit gained.
There are a few vehicles that do incorporate small solar panels, but none that are really capable of adding any significant range to the high-voltage battery pack. Munich-based startup Sono Motors is also trying to bring a solar car, the Sono Sion, to market. The solar panels on that vehicle can add up to 20 miles per day to the vehicle's range in ideal conditions.
Gallery: Lightyear One prototype
We'd like to know your thoughts. Are we close to getting solar cars that can produce enough energy to make financial sense in incorporating them into EVs? Or are we still years away from the technology being ready? As always, let us know in the comment section below.