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The solar-powered production car is finally here

Would solar-powered cars work in Australia?

The Lightyear One is the world’s first solar-powered production car. 

Founded by the members of Solar Team Eindhoven, a successful solar car team, Lightyear claims to employ people who have worked with Tesla and Ferrari, and the brand's first-ever vehicle has been revealed at an event in the Netherlands. 

The One features many futuristic interior materials. The One features many futuristic interior materials.

Taking the team's experience from solar cars experiments, the engineers behind the Lightyear One have designed the sleek, long production-ready car for maximum efficiency; it features an electric motor at each wheel to minimise energy loss, the body features a long tail and covered rear wheels and as little wasted weight as possible. 

The One is claimed to offer a 725km driving range under the WLTP test cycle, and features five square metres of solar panels built into the roof and bonnet - and don’t worry, these are protected by safety glass that is said to be able to withstand the weight of a human. 

Lightyear claims that in ‘optimal conditions’, 12km can be added to the car’s range each hour, purely by way of sunlight - perfect for Australian summers. The company also claims these solar panels are 20 per cent more efficient than traditional panels.

The One will be built from 2021. The One will be built from 2021.

But the One is not just powered by the sun - it’s able to gain around 507km of range from one hour of charging through a 60kW fast charger. Charging it using a 230V socket adds around 400km of range overnight. 

Unlike Teslas and other electric cars, the Lightyear One is not a performance benchmark - the company is yet to release power and torque figures, though claims that the One will sprint from 0 to 100km/h in around 10 seconds - it's clearly aiming more at range than outright performance, and that's unsurprising given it's the name of the game in solar car racing. 

Looking very much like a four-door Volkswagen XL1, the Lightyear One is futuristic. The interior is minimalistic with two large screens and plenty of storage space, including a centre console cubby to hide valuables. 

The One is sleek to look at. The One is sleek to look at.

Pricing for the Lightyear One starts at €149,000 (AUD$244,000) and production will start in 2021. Reservations are open on the company’s website and deposits start at €19,000 (AUD$31,000).

Does the idea of a solar-powered car make sense in Australia? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below.