In theory, having a car powered by solar energy could be the most energy-efficient way possible to get around. Well, new startup Lightyear (there's a lot of buzz about it... I'll get my coat) is here to try and bring a solar fuelled car to the market, and it's getting help from Bridgestone.
100 best inventions
Netherlands-based Lightyear is made up of people with experience from the automotive industry, including former employees of Tesla, Audi, McLaren and Ferrari. In 2019, Lightyear received the Horizon 2020 grant from the European Commission and in the same year, its solar-powered prototype was called one of the '100 best inventions' by Time Magazine. The company has a prototype of its Lightyear One racking up miles right now and claims to be building up to delivering its first cars by the end of this year.
While you can charge the Lightyear One's battery pack the idea is that, by sitting parked in the sun, its five square metres of solar panels, stretching across the roof and bonnet, can top it up without being connected to the mains. Lightyear claims a total range of 725km on a full charge, thanks to a large battery, lightweight carbon-fibre construction, and a tear-drop shape that, says Lightyear, gives it the lowest drag coefficient of any road car. The solar panels can, says the company, add 12km of range for every hour parked in the sun, which if you left it outside your office or your house, could theoretically indeed top up the battery for the sort of daily mileage most people would do. When you're out and about on longer journeys, you can fast-charge it from public charging points, and Lightyear says that an hour spent on a 60kW charger will add 570km of range.
The car uses an electric motor mounted behind each wheel, and is claimed to have 1,900Nm of torque, although its 0-100km/h time is quoted at a rather relaxed "less than 10 seconds."
Bespoke Turanza tyres
Bridgestone is helping with all of this by developing a bespoke Turanza Eco tyre for the Lightyear One, which is very light, and which has very low rolling-resistance. Indeed, Bridgestone claims that it has been able to save 3.6kg of weight at each corner, compared to a conventional tyre, without compromising on grip nor efficiency.
Emilio Tiberio, COO & CTO of Bridgestone EMIA, explains: "Lightyear have impressed with their approach to sustainable mobility ever since we saw the team take on the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, and so we're excited to play a part in the Lightyear One project. Bridgestone is committed to a 50 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030 and 100 per cent sustainable materials by 2050 and strategic partnerships are fundamental to achieving these goals."
Lex Hoefsloot, CEO of Lightyear, adds: "We're particularly happy to see this collaboration between Bridgestone and Lightyear, with two companies that share a vision for future sustainable mobility coming together. The world is already experiencing unprecedented change and challenges, and through innovation and cutting-edge technologies we can work together to grasp the opportunities head on and create a more sustainable world."