As a part of Lightyear’s efforts to build solar cars, the startup has fitted Tesla’s Model 3 cars with its solar roofs.
Lightyear first caught the world’s attention after it was founded by Solar Team Eindhoven, a group of engineering students from Netherland’s Technical University of Eindhoven. They were participants in the World Solar Challenge with their two solar cars, Stella and Stella Lux. These cars are also energy-positive, producing more energy than they consume.
Their success in the competition led them to launch their own solar car startup. It was last year that they released their first car, the Lightyear One, into the market. While the features were spectacular, the price could have been a little more competitive.
Nevertheless, this is a step in the right direction for the automobile market. There are very few car models that incorporate solar technology, but startups like Lightyear could change that.
Today, the company is testing its solar cells on the models of two well-known car companies: Tesla and Volkswagen. They installed their Maxeon solar cells on the roofs of Tesla’s Model 3 and Volkswagen’s Crafter LCV. This is what the Lightyear website has to say:
‘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.’
The startup further elaborates on its test program with the two car models:
‘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.’
In the future, the company will incorporate even more solar technology in the vehicles. Specifically, it wants to have deployed seven test vehicles, fitting the last one with a solar in-wheel motor and battery technology.
The installation is especially timely as Tesla was also planning on it. Elon Musk announced in 2017 that Tesla engineers will be investigating the use of solar cells for the Model 3 cars. The project was soon abandoned as it was too time-consuming.
However, the company was soon back on the solar track.
Upon the unveiling of the Cybertruck, Musk said that it will come with a solar roof that can add up to 15 miles of range each day.
The one problem with solar roofs on cars is their effectiveness: they don’t produce enough energy for them to be significantly energy-positive. Moreover, the surface of the roof is not sufficiently big to absorb a lot of solar energy, and it is often difficult to obtain exposure to sunlight, especially in certain areas.
With that being said, one thing we can be optimistic about is the upward trend in the efficiency of solar cells. Advancements in technology will allow cars to have more solar miles per day than they do now. And with companies like Lightyear and Tesla, complete solar cell integration seems possible.