VBecause the electricity comes from the socket: Lex Hoefsloot taps into the sun for driving and saves himself the detour via the photovoltaic system on the roof of the house and the wall box in the garage. The 31-year-old Dutchman is head of the start-up Lightyear, which has now presented the first production-ready solar car, the Lightyear Zero. It is a flounder that is more than five meters long and looks suspiciously like the Mercedes EQXX prototype, but differs from the Swabian saver in two key details.
The Zero was ready as a study long before the Mercedes, and while the EQXX remains an expensive one-off, the Lightyear goes on sale. Except that the price of 297,500 euros makes you swallow deeply.
The highlight of the coupés from Eindhoven are the approximately five square meter solar collectors, which are installed on the front hood and the roof and replace the rear window. In theory, these cells deliver more electricity than the average German, even in our latitudes. Nevertheless, the Lightyear has a battery that, at 60 kWh, is comparatively small for a vehicle in this class. Because the Zero is supposed to be more efficient than any other electric car, the 60 kWh are enough for more than 600 kilometers. “If you take reasonably realistic driving profiles as a basis and factor in the daily solar power, our customers only have to plug in once a week or every 1,000 kilometers at most,” calculates Chief Technology Officer Arjo van der Ham.
On the way to becoming the world champion in efficiency, Lightyear has turned almost every screw that an electric car has to offer. Thanks to the small frontal area and a drag coefficient of 0.19, the car is even more aerodynamic than the EQS, which Mercedes celebrates as the current world champion among production cars. The Zero relies on wheel hub motors because they have lower energy losses, and it is unusually light at just under 1.6 tons thanks to the almost spartan equipment of the naturally vegan cabin for this price range. Some conventional small electric cars are heavier, not to mention long-distance electric cars in the five-meter class. The WLTP cycle promises only 10.5 kWh consumption per 100 kilometers, a sensational value.
The four engines together deliver a moderate 180 hp. Although the cumulative torque peaks at 1720 Nm, the standard sprint from 0 to 100 takes a full ten seconds, and the rush is over again at 160 km/h.
The Dutch contingent of a maximum of 946 cars that Lightyear has Valmet build in Finland was sold immediately after the start of the order. The head of the company, Hoefsloot, is convinced that the number of interested parties in Germany and the rest of Europe means that something similar can be expected there. He asks all those who get nothing to be patient for two or three years. Then the Lightyear Two should come and conquer the masses. Conceived as a compact crossover in the style of the VW ID 4, Hoefsloot is planning a net price of 30,000 euros and six-digit numbers. These are impressively ambitious goals for a group of students who met almost ten years ago during a solar rally in Australia, founded their own company six years ago and now employs 500 people.
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