Dutch startup Lightyear has found a manufacturing partner to build his solar-powered electric car, the Lightyear One. Finnish contract manufacturer Valmet Automotive signed a letter of intent with the start-up company this week, and the companies plan to start building prototypes together in early 2022, with production of nearly 1,000 vehicles in the middle of 1,000. Another mass-produced vehicle has not yet been notified.
Lightyear was founded in 2016 by an engineering firm that had competed in one of the World Solar Challenges, held every few years in the Australian outback, to promote the idea of solar-powered cars. The startup appeared Lightyear One’s first prototype in 2019. It’s a sharp-looking sedan, and Lightyear made great promises at the time, including a 725-mile (450-mile) range. Lightyear also said that the car would be very efficient and be able to produce about 12 km (7.5 miles) per hour the solar cells are embedded in the ceiling, allowing owners to visit for long periods of time without plugging it into mains power. All of this comes at a price: a limited-time Lightyear One costs about $ 165,000.
Lightyear said Monday that he tried to find the right manufacturing partner for more than a year before reaching an agreement with Valmet. The Finnish contract manufacturer has been operating since the late 1960s and has built cars for Saab, Mercedes-Benz and even Porsche. It is currently owned by a large Finnish private equity group and the Finnish government (each with a 39% stake), and is partly owned by the leading Chinese battery company CATL (which has a 22% stake).
Using solar cells to power an electric vehicle is a long task; there is only such a big difference between the amount of energy that the best cells can capture from the sun’s rays and what is needed for a two-ton metal part to move quickly. But Lightyear isn’t the only team trying to make it happen. Aptera – a California startup that collapsed as a result of the Great Recession – was recently awakened and has raised money while building prototypes of his own funky tricycle. German startup Sono Motors is also working solar powered electric car.
Lightyear has raised about $ 100 million so far, albeit roughly three quarters funding is come in 2021, so it has built up a lot of steam. In April it gathered a collaboration with Japanese tire giant Bridgestoneand in early July, it revealed long-range test results showing the company could indeed achieve its ambitious range and solar energy targets.