Lightyear to sell so­lar cars

Dutch stu­dents to build their proven sun-pow­ered cars by 2019

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - ALWYN VILJOEN • alwyn.viljoen@wit­ness.co.za

HAV­ING re­ported ex­ten­sively on the so­lar-pow­ered cars built by Dutch stu­dents in Eind­hoven, Wheels is happy to re­port they have now taken the next step — to cre­ate a so­lar car for sale to the pub­lic.

Five So­lar Team Eind­hoven alumni founded Lightyear, in­clud­ing Qurein Biewenga, who did his high school at Waterk­loof Hoërskool in Pre­to­ria and now heads fi­nance and op­er­a­tions in the young com­pany.

Co-founder Mar­tijn Lam­mers ex­plains they proved their con­cept in So­lar Team Eind­hoven by build­ing the rev­o­lu­tion­ary so­lar cars Stella and Stella Lux.

Both are four-seaters, road le­gal, so­lar-pow­ered and win­ners of two World So­lar Chal­lenge world cham­pi­onships.

Their next mis­sion is to have a so­lar car drive one light year in to­tal dis­tance.

“Cur­rently, all cars of the world com­bined drive one light year, ev­ery year. That is 9,5 bil­lion kilo­me­tres. Ev­ery year, pow­ered by fos­sil fu­els.

“Our goal is to ac­cel­er­ate the adop­tion of elec­tric cars so that by 2030, one light year will have been driven elec­tric,” said Lam­mers.

Lightyear has not yet re­vealed their new car, but based on what worked in the three it­er­a­tions in the Stella so­lar cars, the Lightyear One willl have hub mo­tors in moun­tain bike wheels, a lithium-ion bat­tery pack, a wide, low, light body, a 5 m² “roof” to house the so­lar pan­els and com­puter-con­trolled torque (read “slow”) to save power go­ing up­hill.

“Light”, “low” and “slow” are not words that South Africa’s big bakkie buy­ers want to hear, and Wheels con­fi­dently pre­dicts that even the prospect of not pay­ing for fuel ever again will not stop the Ford Ranger and Toy­ota Hilux from be­ing the two most sold ve­hi­cles lo­cally for many years to come.

But the in­trepid en­gi­neers at Lightyear are not too per­turbed by our cur­rent pref­er­ences. Lam­mers said since their so­lar-pow­ered ve­hi­cle does not need a charg­ing in­fras­truc­ture, it will be “ex­tremely scal­able” in devel­op­ing coun­tries.

De­pend­ing on the bat­tery con­fig­u­ra­tion, the group’s cur­rent tech­nol­ogy of­fers 400 to 800 km of range­buffered per bat­tery.

Join­ing these elite young guns in their mis­sion will not be cheap.

The group are cur­rently crowdfunding the car and are ask­ing a re­fund­able pay­ment of €19 000 (R327 400). This gets in­vestors a reser­va­tion on the first 10 Lightyear One cars to be built dur­ing 2019, with the next 100 cars ex­pected in 2020.

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