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Solar Electric Vehicle Startup Lightyear Announces $48 Million Funding Round, its Largest to Date

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【Summary】Netherlands-based electric vehicle startup Lightyear announced a $48 million funding round led by Zero Point Holding B.V. The latest funding round is Lightyear’s largest financing round to date. Lightyear aims to harness the best existing solar technology and integrate it with an electric vehicle.

Eric Walz    Mar 13, 2021 12:00 PM PT
Solar Electric Vehicle Startup Lightyear Announces $48 Million Funding Round, its Largest to Date
The Lightyear One has solar panels embedded in the hood and roof.

Dutch electric vehicle startup Lightyear announced a $48 million funding round, led by Zero Point Holding B.V. The latest funding round is Lightyear's largest financing round to date. The funds will be used to support their growth and path towards the first customer deliveries of the company's first electric vehicle called the Lightyear One by the end of this year.

Lightyear aims to harness the best existing solar technology and integrate it with an electric vehicle. The Lightyear One will have a range of 440 miles and will be able to recharge from its own solar roof, the company says.

Lightyear is aiming to commercialize electric vehicles that use integrated solar cells in order to minimize the charging needs while lessening reliance on the grid for charging. Lightyear's technology includes an efficient powertrain, high yield solar roof and optimized thermal management system for electric vehicles. 

"This funding round will help us accelerate towards the first deliveries at the end of the year," said Lex Hoefsloot, CEO and co-founder of Lightyear. "We are grateful for the support of all the individual investors and happy to welcome them as ambassadors to our mission." 

The Lightyear One has 5 square meters of embedded solar cells on the roof and hood, allowing the car to charge itself whenever it absorbs sunlight. The cells function independently, meaning they produce a higher yield compared to conventional solar cells, according to Lightyear. 

The Lightyear One can drive up to 55km (34 miles) per day on solar power alone, which is enough to cover the average daily commute in Europe of 28km per day, according to Lightyear. With a round trip commute of 28 km, the Lightyear One's solar panel will cover the energy needs for apporximately 60% of the daily commute.

The Lightyear One is equipped with four in-wheel electric motors, making the car lighter, giving the driver more control, and reducing the energy loss from motor to wheel, according to the company.

Lightyear-One-Hero.jpeg

The Lightyear One.

Many developers of electric vehicles often tout the size of the battery pack which increases the vehicle's range. However, Lightyear believes that an EV with a bigger battery also increases the dependency on DC fast chargers, since these vehicles will need a lot of power to quickly charge the larger battery. 

"If you want to make it to your destination quickly, you shouldn't charge a massive battery only to waste all your energy driving it around. With a focus on efficiency instead, you can charge a smaller battery that will reach the same distances because your car requires less energy," said Martijn Lammers, co-founder, Chief Strategy at Lightyear.

Lightyear's signature solar technology was initially developed to compete in the World Solar Challenge and was designed with three primary goals, to maximize solar cell coverage, while offering the highest level of durability and safety. The company's solar technology can also be aesthetically integrated into a vehicle, the company said.

In 2020, Lightyear deployed two research vehicles with its signature solar technology, including a Tesla Model 3. The other test vehicle was a Volkswagen Crafter electric van. The research vehicles are the latest developments in a series of solar platforms, serving as a platform to validate Lightyear's technology.

Lightyear teamed up with Silicon Valley-based company SunPower Corporation, integrating the company's Maxeon solar cells onto conductive back sheet technology developed by Dutch life sciences company DSM.

SunPower is an energy company that designs and manufactures crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells and solar panels based technology invented at Stanford University in California. The company is majority owned by Total, which is publicly traded on the NASDAQ under the stock symbol "SPWR."

The Lightyear One EV is meant to address the inefficient use of big batteries and a heavy reliance on frequent charging, which can slow down EV adoption rates. In addition, for the widespread adoption of EVs, billions of dollars in investment is necessary to build out the required infrastructure for millions of EV by 2030 in the US, China and Europe. With EV adoption rates at around 3%, these investments will take time to pay off. But Lightyear's solar technology shows promise for the future of EVs. 

Just as improvements in EV batteries chemistries have helped to extend range and increase charging rates for today's EVs over the past decade, future breakthroughs in solar charging that Lightyear is working on have the potential to lessen reliance on the grid and make EVs more efficient.

In 2019, Lightyear was named the best startup in the Netherlands by LinkedIn.

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