Charging is one of the most frustrating issues for electric vehicle owners, and a lot of people have dreamed about installing solar panels on top of their vehicles to provide electricity so as to achieve energy sustainability. The latest research of Dutch startup LightYear had managed to install a solar panel onto a Model 3, and let us see just how effective it is.
Dutch startup LightYear has been researching and developing solar power generation systems, and the company has officially commenced the road testing for two models, which are Tesla’s Model 3 and Volkswagen Crafter LCV (fossil fuel vehicle).
These two vehicles will collect several important data during this period, including the impact on the efficiency of solar panels from sunshine, lightning strike, water proofing, and road vibration, in order to provide the most crucial real-world data regarding LightYear’s future product development.
The solar panels used by LightYear for these two vehicles are made by SunPower Maxeon, with a maximum power generation efficiency of approximately 220W per m2, which is roughly the dimension used for the test vehicles this time. Roughly 2m2 of solar panels would be installed if all rooftops are adopted with this setup, which in other words, can produce a maximum power of around 440W per hour.
Model 3 consumes roughly 160W of power for each kilometer it travels, thus the solar rooftop is able to infuse an additional 2.5km of driving distance if it is exposed under the blazing sun for an hour, which is rather insignificant. The solar rooftop can replenish a certain degree of electricity for fossil fuel vehicles, and is able to provide a peace of mind when using the automotive electricity system, such as parking surveillance and idled lights.
LightYear wishes to construct an electric vehicle with a comprehensive solar rooftop, though the existing threshold lies on the insufficient efficiency in solar panels in regard to satisfying the electricity required for electric vehicles. To achieve a comprehensive solar power setup, the company must substantially elevate the efficiency of solar panels, as well as reduce the energy consumption of vehicles at the same time, including weight reduction, power reduction, and a better aerodynamic design.
Looking from the previously announced design, the fully solar powered electric vehicle LightYear One not only comes with a solar rooftop, but also a solar headstock and tailstock. As claimed by the company, LightYear One has a relatively high energy efficiency, requiring only 83W per kilometer, whereas the solar charging efficiency provides 12km of driving distance per hour. After conversion, the vehicle’s solar panels are able to generate almost 1kW of power per hour, and taking into account its dimension of 5m in length and 1.8m in width, the efficiency of the solar panels should not be too far from that of the test vehicles.
▲The concept car of LightYear One may commence road tests at the end of this year.
Regarding data, the high energy efficiency of LightYear is obtained through a sacrifice on power. As officially announced by the company, the acceleration time from 0 to 100km is 10 seconds, which is relatively slow for electric vehicles, though sacrificing on speed in order to gain more driving distance (official data of 700km) and more affordable prices would be competitive for general car owners.
The two current test models are numbered as 005 and 006, and LightYear is expected to announce its 007 test vehicle at the end of this year, which is the fully solar powered vehicle completely designed by the company. However, it remains to be seen if the vehicle is a revolutionary futuristic tech backed by ambitions, or just another bubble.
(Photo source: LightYear)