Solar Team Eindhoven, a group of engineering students from the Technical University of Eindhoven (Netherlands), has been competing in the World Solar Challenge with their Stella and Stella Lux, energy positive solar cars – meaning that they can produce more energy than they consume.
Some of the students responsible for the vehicles have now launched a new startup to make a commercial street-legal version of the car.
Generally, it’s almost impossible to add any meaningful power to an electric vehicle using solar since there’s not enough surface to install solar cells in order to supply the power needed to move vehicles that often weigh over 3,000 lbs.
To achieve positive energy output, Solar Team Eindhoven designed the Stella Lux to be extremely aerodynamic and used lightweight materials such as carbon fiber and aluminum.
But the vehicle was built for a student competition and making a street-legal vehicle that can be sold to the public is another thing.
It needs tons of safety features as well as just simple practical features and that add up to more weight. More weight equals higher energy needs, which equals more solar cells, more solar cells need a bigger surface, which in turn equals more weight and so on.
There needs to be a great balance of efficiency and solar power in order to create such a vehicle.
Lightyear, a startup created by 5 Solar Team Eindhoven alumni, thinks that it found that balance. They claim that they created “the electric car that charges itself”:
“The Lightyear One charges itself with clean solar power. In sunny conditions it can drive for months without charging, a truly unique capability. The battery stores energy to ensure you can drive at night. It offers great peace of mind.”
They claim that it will be able to generate enough energy to travel 10,000 to 20,000 km per year (~6,200 to 12,400 miles) depending on the climate.
Even though they have yet to unveil the vehicle (they only released a teaser – embedded below), they are already taking reservations with a refundable deposit of €19.000 (~$22,000 USD) for an expected final price of €119.000 (~$136,000 USD).
They are planning to start with a first small production run of 10 “Signature” cars in 2019 and then produce 100 more in 2020.