(TMU) — Dutch startup company Lightyear is challenging the idea that Tesla and the array of electric cars being pumped out by the automotive industry are the future of sustainable transportation.
The company has just introduced the world’s first solar-powered long-range vehicle—a futuristic five-seat sedan teeming with solar panels on its exterior, called Lightyear One.
Lightyear was born out of Solar Team Eindhoven, based out of Eindhoven University of Technology, and has been seeking to capitalize on its technology since 2012. The company was founded in 2016 after enjoying an influx of grants and investments following their exemplary work in various solar vehicle races.
The Lightyear One prototype was introduced last week to a small audience of investors, partners, customers and media outlets, but has already secured 100 orders to be filled by 2021.
Co-founder and CEO Lex Hoefsloot said:
“This moment represents a new era of driving. Two years of dreaming, thinking and working hard have led to this milestone, which is a giant leap towards achieving our mission of making clean mobility available to everyone.”
The Lightyear One sports an aerodynamic form similar to the 1980s Citroën CX and a unique wheel motor system that does away with the need for a transmission, granting the vehicle more space for a larger battery.
The company is aiming to follow the laws of physics so that the plug-in car can get “the most out of every ray of sunshine,” according to a press release.
The company added:
“The main goal of this project is to fill in where electric cars fall short, because research has shown that range and the lack of charging options are becoming the top concerns to most people when considering electric cars.”
The car allegedly has only half of the energy consumption needs of similar cars on a battery that’s only two-thirds the size of the Tesla S but with much greater range in ideal conditions.
The roof and hood are covered in five square meters of integrated solar cells in durable safety glass. The car is also constructed using light, high-tech materials that fulfill passenger safety standards, according to the company.
Lightyear One can also be plugged in, charging up to 248 miles at night from any household electrical outlet. The company claims that the car can drive nearly 500 miles (800 kilometers) on a single charge provided it has sufficient sunlight for the solar panels, and 250 miles in circumstances where it can’t receive a solar charge.
While the car is initially priced at around $135,000—a steep price that may appeal more to luxury consumers than popular markets—Hoefsloot is sure that advancements in solar cars will eventually lead to a drop in prices. The company already has a lower-priced model in the works.
And with low operating costs per mile plus its minimal environmental footprint, Hoefsloot is sure that the Lightyear One may help reduce global CO2 emissions caused by private transportation vehicles.
“This will prove to be our most important tipping point in the near future, and it will pave the way for a car fleet that is one hundred percent sustainable.”