People used to consider the sun a god. Its energy fuels life as we know it. "And in the future, the sun will also fuel our cars", that’s the premise of Dutch startup Lightyear, a new company specialized in solar powered electric cars.
ONE MASSIVE PROBLEM
One of the biggest problems humanity is currently facing are the excessive CO2 emissions. They threaten to increase the greenhouse effect on earth and therefore damage not only humanity but all life on the planet. Carbon emissions from motor vehicles are a major contributors to this problem. Every year, cars collectively drive about 9.500.000.000.000 miles, one light-year. Furthermore, we do that by burning mainly oil based fuels, which are finite and highly polluting resources.
Make no mistake, the distance travelled by light over the course of one year is no small matter. To give some perspective, the distance between the sun and Pluto is only of 0.000628 light-years (or approximately five and a half light-hours). That means that every year, all our motor vehicles combined could drive the equivalent to 1592 trips between the sun and Pluto.
This is a problem we can no longer ignore. Driving such a great distance has massive consequences for our planet. Since we now have planetary scale power, we need planetary scale solutions.
A SOLUTION: SOLAR ELECTRICITY
"Stella Vie", an early prototype by Lightyear. It was developed at Solar Team Eindhoven and it won the World Solar Challenge twice. Photo via TU/e, Bart van Overbeeke.
Lightyear proposes a bold solution: an electric solar car. “Our goal is to accelerate the adoption of electric cars so that by 2030, one light-year will have been driven electric. To that, we are providing a scalable solution” they claim on their website.
Lightyear One - their first model available for pre-order - charges itself with clean solar power. As a result, in sunny conditions it can drive for months without charging. This means that we can leverage the massive energy the sun provides everyday in the form of heat and light, and use it to propel our means of transportation. This will require minimal infrastructure. No charging points and no gas stations, only a car, the sun, and you’re ready to go on the road. Its battery stores energy to ensure you can drive at night. And due to the amount of sunlight hours that many places around the world have, it seems that Lightyear One’s autonomy will be unprecedented. In Hawaii, that would mean driving 20.000 km per year only on sunlight. In New York, 14.000 km and in Amsterdam 10.000 km.
The car design and details still remain secretive. The company promises to release more information in 2018.
The first ten signature edition vehicles will be released in 2019 and 100 more in 2020. Lightyear is looking for a scalable, sustainable solution in order to market their technology. This top-down approach was also used by other companies in order to disrupt the status quo in the automotive industry, like Tesla.
Burning fossil fuels has given us the opportunity to travel the planet. Now we need to change that, for our own good and for the good of the planet. A self-charging electric car seems like a great way to do it. It seems we have to wait a couple of years to see how this big project works out.
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