During the development of the Tesla Model 3, Elon Musk suggested that brand engineers include solar panels in the design to increase the autonomy of the car. This idea was rejected at that time due to imperfect technology, but now everything has changed. Now such technologies and the solar panels themselves, which can be placed on the car body, have become a reality, and we can talk about their practical application. Thank you for the Dutch company Lightyear. She was able to integrate the sunroof with photocells into the roof of the Tesla Model 3, to significantly increase its autonomous mileage. So far, the results are not so impressive, although they give an important increase, but over time, everything will only get better. What are these technologies that have already been tested on the open road?

New electric car project

Last year, Lightyear unveiled the details of its project to create a car whose autonomy will reach 725 kilometers. It will not only work from the battery but will be able to be fueled by the energy of the sun with the help of special panels on the roof and hood. Such a recharge will be possible even in regions where there are not many sunny days.

Now the company has moved from words to deeds and began to test the technology on public roads, conducting autonomy measurements on the example of Tesla Model 3 and Volkswagen e-Crafter. The first is an ordinary passenger car, and the second is a commercial minibus.

The appearance of Lightyear One will be a new achievement in the field of cars that move, including due to the energy of the sun. Although this technology is not finished yet, its prospects are already very bright.

Lightyear is not the only company to implement such a solution. The Fraunhofer Institute of Industrial Engineering is also developing a sunroof that promises up to 10 kilometers of battery life per day, and startup Gazelle (yes, Gazelle) did the same, but with a slightly different design.

Is it possible to install solar panels on any electric vehicle

Lightyear is testing the sunroof on the Tesla Model 3 electric car, but integration is also possible in the design of other cars. The manufacturer’s goal is twofold: on the one hand, to prepare third-party cars for use with their system, and on the other, to prepare the technical base for creating your own electric car.

The company is not limited to working only with these two cars and is developing sunroofs for use in several other models. To do this, she teamed up with the Dutch chemical company DSM.

Lightyear One

Actually, even the already existing Tesla and Volkswagen were created as a result of this cooperation. The projects on which they are created are called Vehicle 005 (Volkswagen e-crafter) and Vehicle 006 (Tesla Model 3). Thanks to this, we see the embodiment of the initial aspiration of Elon Mask. It is strange that if such technologies have already appeared, he did not realize them.

Where do cars with solar panels test?

To date, both prototype models created (if you can call them that) are running around Lightyear’s headquarters in Helmond, the Netherlands. They allow not only collecting data to increase the efficiency of solar panels but also checking their resistance to vibration and deformation during body roll, as well as some other safety parameters. All this is necessary so that the company can prove the possibility and safety of the use of its technologies in any automobiles. It is very important for commercial success.

By the end of 2020, Lightyear hopes to prepare another test model – Vehicle 007. It will not only be built on the basis of other cars, but will also receive electric motors and a battery of its own design. Thus, it will be possible to talk about an almost full-fledged prototype, which will form the basis of the first full-fledged electric vehicle of the company.

In the case of Lightyear One, it’s hood and roof contain up to five square meters of solar cells that are covered with safety glass and have a conductive foil supplied by DSM. Such a large coverage of the car helps him to continue charging in situations when part of the body is in the shade.

Tesla model 3

What is the advantage of solar powered cars

The company promises that even in areas with few sunny days, such as the Netherlands, a car that travels 20,000 kilometers a year will receive 40% of its energy from the sun.

Lightyear also claims that its systems are 20% more efficient than their counterparts and are capable of charging an automobile for 12 kilometers in an hour. Just imagine that you drive home 50 kilometers. In this case, in 9 hours in the sun, the car will be charged enough to drive back and forth. That is, in the summer you can forget about what charging is.

If you still use a charging station, then from an outlet with a capacity of 22 kW you can charge 209 kilometers per hour, and from 60 kW – as much as 405 kilometers. This combination of technologies is really impressive. At the same time, one should not forget that on the move the solar panels also accumulate a charge at the rate of 12 kilometers per hour. So autonomy will become much more. The main thing is that overweight does not increase consumption, otherwise, Tesla told how important weight loss is.

Despite the fact that Lightyear announced that the car will appear on the market in mid-2021 with a limited first release and pre-orders at the beginning of the year, it’s worth being realistic. Most likely, the car will be released closer to the end of next year, which, however, will also be a good result. It remains only to add that the price of the new electric car will be $ 149,000. Not so little, but the technology is new. Let’s see what will happen next.