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Tesla Model 3 gets a solar roof thanks to Lightyear

A Tesla Model 3 has been modified with a solar roof as part of Lightyear’s solar car development program.

We have been reporting on Lightyear for a few years now.

The startup first caught our attention because it spun out of Solar Team Eindhoven, a group of engineering students from the Technical University of Eindhoven (Netherlands) who have 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.

After being quite successful in the competition, they decided to turn their experience building solar cars for the race into a startup building solar cars for consumers.

Last year, they unveiled their first car: The Lightyear One.

At the unveiling, we noted that the electric vehicle’s specs were impressive, but the price had us a little concerned.

Nonetheless, the development of such a vehicle could result in advances in solar integration on cars, which has so far been limited.

Lightyear is launching today its first two research vehicles to test their solar technology.

They integrated Sunpower’s Maxeon solar cells on the roof of a Tesla Model 3 and Volkswagen Crafter LCV:

Hitting the roads this week, Lightyear released two Research Vehicles with its signature solar technology. The company has equipped its solar technology onto a Volkswagen Crafter LCV and seamlessly integrated a solar roof onto a Tesla Model 3. Numbered 005 and 006, respectively, these two research vehicles are the latest developments in a series of platforms, serving to validate Lightyear’s technology and design choices. The vehicles can be seen driving around in the surroundings of Lightyear’s Headquarters, located in the city of Helmond, the Netherlands.

Here’s a video of the Tesla Model 3 test vehicle with their solar roof technology:

Lightyear describes its test program with the Model 3 and Volkswagen Crafter LCV:

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. The vehicles will provide additional real-world data on vibration impact, shock absorption and waterproofness. This testing is deemed crucial to ensure a safe, reliable and durable solar system that will last the lifetime of Lightyear’s cars and of other vehicles that utilize the solar roofs.

The startup plans to deploy more test vehicles with increasingly more technology of their own on the vehicles.

By the end of the year, they want to have a test vehicle No. 7 with Ligthyear’s own solar, in-wheel motor, and battery technology.

It’s interesting that they chose to install their system on a Model 3 since Tesla almost did it itself.

In 2017, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that he pushed his Tesla engineers to look into integrating solar cells on Model 3, but they concluded that it wasn’t worth it at the time.

Two years later, things have changed.

After the launch of the Cybertruck, Musk said that Tesla’s new electric pickup truck will have a solar roof option that will add 15 miles of range per day.

Electrek’s Take

Maybe Tesla could learn something from Lightyear’s project because this integration looks extremely good.

I still believe that if you want to power your electric car with solar, it’s probably better to power your home with solar and charge your car there, but that’s not available to everyone.

Also, there’s something exciting about the idea of your vehicle creating its own energy, but that’s always been a problem with installing solar cells on cars — they don’t produce that much energy.

The surface is just not big enough and they are not always in a great position to get good sun exposure.

However, solar cell efficiency has been greatly improving over the last few years, and if you have an efficient electric car with nicely integrated solar cells, you can actually get a few solar miles per day.

I am starting to be excited about the prospect of this technology being more broadly deployed as an option in the next few years with Lightyear, and apparently Tesla with the Cybertruck.

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