(CNN) — The Dutch company Lightyear has announced that it will start making the world’s first production car with solar panels this fall.
The Lightyear 0 has curved solar panels in the roof, hood and trunk that charge the electric battery while it’s driving (or left parked) and the first delivery in Europe could be as early as November.
The company says the car can go about 388 miles without stopping to charge, and will have an additional range of up to 44 miles per day from the solar panels. By comparison, that’s a little more than a Tesla Model 3 (374 miles), and significantly more than the Kia Niro Long Range (285 miles).
Each hour in the sun adds up to six miles of charge to the battery, according to Lightyear. The solar range gives an extra trickle of miles for long journeys, but also means you’ll spend less time on charge points – or maybe not need them at all. The company says that in a hot province like Spain or Portugal, if your daily commute is less than 22 miles, you won’t need to plug the car in for up to seven months. In a cloudier climate, such as in the Netherlands, the car should be charged after two months.
A rendering of the Lightyear 0.
Smaller battery, lighter car
The “0” has a lot in common with the Lightyear One prototype unveiled two years ago, but can do more with a smaller battery, says CEO and co-founder of the company Lex Hoefsloot. “The powertrain is the most efficient in the world,” he claims, adding that the car’s aerodynamic shape and four in-wheel motors allow a smaller battery to deliver the same range.
That means “the whole car is lighter,” he says, “and you get into this positive feedback cycle where everything can also get lighter. So we got to 1,575 kilograms. If you look at other cars that offer a similar range, they are all about 40% heavier.”
Other companies are developing cars with solar panels, but none are ready to hit the market. The Sono Sion, scheduled for production in 2023, promises to offer an average solar range of 10 miles per day. The Aptera Never Charge is a futuristic-looking tricycle that, according to the company, will collect approximately 40 miles of solar energy per day. Aptera told CNN it hopes the car will enter production by 2023 and already has 24,000 reservations.
But while the whole concept of the Lightyear 0 may be based on improving efficiency and reducing charging time, it has a maximum speed of only 100 mph, while the time from 0 to 100 mph is a slow 10 seconds, something that Hoefsloot admits is due to a focus on reach.
It’s expensive, too: One of the 946 launch models will set you back €250,000 ($262,000) — a little more than a Ferrari Roma, and some distance from mid-range EVs like the Nissan Leaf (about $27,000 in the US) or the Tesla Model 3 (about $50,000).
The company hopes to launch a “people’s model” by 2025, tentatively named Lightyear Two, which will cost about €30,000 ($31,215).