Lightyear One: The World’s First Solar-Boosted Production EV is a week away

The Lightyear One is a Dutch design produced in Finland by Valmet Automotive.

The CEO and co-founder of Lightyear, Lex Hoefsloot, is a 31-year-old man from The Netherlands, a country built partially under sea level. Given such a geographical situation, it’s no surprise that Dutch people in general have a great respect for nature as well a lifestyle that prefers highly comfortable bicycles over cars.

Out of university, Mr. Hoefsloot won the 3000 km World Solar Challenge across the Australian Outback. Today, he drives a Tesla Model 3, mainly to understand the competition. In less than a week, he is also set to reveal the Lightyear One, the world’s first long-range series production solar electric car.

Developed and produced by Finnish Tier 1 supplier Valmet Automotive (formerly known as Saab-Valmet), the Lightyear One promises room for five adults, with a WLTP range of 725 km (450 miles), and a charging system that shall grant Lightyear drivers with the following range estimates after just one hour on the plug:

  • 12 km (7.4 miles) with solar charging alone
  • 35 km (21 miles) at 3.7 kW at 230 V
  • 209 km (129 miles) on a 22 kW public charger
  • 570 km (354 miles) using a 60 kW fast charger

Lightyear employs around 350 people these days, and while its first car doesn’t rely on solar charging alone, it’s still a highly efficient electric vehicle designed to make the most of not only every aerodynamic trick in the book, but also a 53 square foot solar panel. While parked during work, that alone could charge up the car for an average daily commute.

In a recent interview for the Dutch flag carrier KLM, Mr. Hoefsloot claimed that the Lightyear One uses half the energy his Tesla Model 3 consumes. The One deploys just 141 Wh from its 60 kWh battery pack per kilometer at highway speeds, according to the company’s testing. What’s for sure is that Lightyear’s development partner Valmet is an expert of electric systems, and the One is no half-cooked prototype by this stage.

First shown back in 2019, the EV’s packaging remains equally smart, with four independent electric motors in a now production-ready family car that’s 5057mm (199 inches) long, 1898mm (74 inches) wide and 1426mm (56 inches) tall, offering decent luggage space like a good hatchback should. The One’s drag-coefficient stands at 0.20, which makes it the most aerodynamic production five-seater yet.

Lightyear One in Maastricht

Introduced as the first vehicle from an automotive startup, the Lightyear One is a technology demonstrator limited to 946 units, which is a reference to the 9.46 trillion kilometers in a lightyear. As such, the One costs $160,000. In fact, Lightyear’s first 150 units, the $160k Pioneer Editions, have sold out, with the second batch, the Limited Edition Ones priced at a whopping $270.000. That high cost is to cover development costs.

To ease the pain, Lightspeed’s CEO says they want their next model to start at around $32,000, which is pretty close to the number most automotive EV startup CEOs claim.