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Solar-Electric EV Startup Lightyear Signs Agreement to Supply 5,000 Vehicles to LeasePlan for the World's First Solar Car Subscription Service

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【Summary】​Solar electric vehicle startup Lightyear has entered into an agreement with Netherlands-based automobile leasing and fleet management company LeasePlan to supply 5,000 vehicles that customers will be able to subscribe to on a monthly basis. The partnership is said to be the world’s first solar car subscription service.

Eric Walz    Dec 15, 2021 12:50 PM PT
Solar-Electric EV Startup Lightyear Signs Agreement to Supply 5,000 Vehicles to LeasePlan for the World's First Solar Car Subscription Service
The Lightyear One solar-electric car from Netherlands-based EV startup Lightyear.

Solar electric vehicle startup Lightyear has entered into an agreement with automobile leasing and fleet management company LeasePlan to supply 5,000 vehicles that customers can subscribe to on a monthly basis. The partnership is said to be the world's first solar car subscription service.

Lightyear's new agreement with LeasePlan was announced during a keynote and Q&A session with company CEO Lex Hoefsloot and CFO Laurens Weers. The two Lightyear execs also shared the company's strategic roadmap and product vision on Wednesday to deliver on its goal of bringing clean mobility to everyone with its solar-electric vehicles.

LeasePlan is reserving 5,000 units of Lightyear's second model that will be made available to Leaseplan customers. The EV builds upon the technology developed for the company's first model, the Lightyear One.  It's scheduled to go into production by 2024/2025. 

LeasePlan has already committed to making Lightyear's first model, the Lightyear One, available through its European leasing network. The Lightyear One will enter production in 2022, according to Lightyear. It's being built by Valmet Automotive, a Finnish vehicle contract manufacturer and Tier 1 supplier.

"Together, LeasePlan and Lightyear will deliver the world's first solar-powered car subscription," said Tex Gunning, CEO of LeasePlan. "We look forward to joining forces with Lightyear and putting drivers behind the wheel of some of the cleanest, most innovative EVs ever produced." 

Netherlands-based LeasePlan, which was founded in 1963, is a leading Car-As-A-Service company. The company operates a fleet of approximately 1.8 million vehicles in 29 countries. LeasePlan purchases, funds and manages new vehicles for its customers, providing a complete end-to-end service for a typical contract duration of three to four years. 

"LeasePlan has been a very strong partner for us since 2018," said Lex Hoefsloot, founder and CEO at Lightyear. "Today's announcement is a testament to their commitment to our product vision to make clean mobility accessible for everyone. LeasePlan has been a leading voice in the need to transition to clean vehicles that are less dependent on charging infrastructure and reduce costly grid reinforcements. We join forces in bringing a unique and truly sustainable vehicle to the market."

Lightyear, which was founded in 2016 and also based in the Netherlands, aims to harness the best existing solar technology and integrate it with an electric vehicle for the first time. Lightyear's team includes former employees of Tesla, Jaguar, Land Rover, Audi, McLaren and Ferrari. 

In March, Lightyear announced a $48 million funding round, led by Zero Point Holding B.V. The round was the startup's largest to date. 

The company aims to commercialize electric vehicles that use integrated solar cells in order to minimize charging needs and lessen the reliance on the grid for charging. 

The Lightyear One EV is also meant to address the inefficient use of big batteries and a heavy reliance on frequent charging, which the company says can slow down EV adoption rates.

 Lightyear says its first vehicle, the Lightyear One, will have a total range of 440 miles and will be able to recharge the battery from its own solar roof and hood. Lightyear's EV technology includes an efficient electric powertrain, high yield solar roof and optimized thermal management system.

The Lightyear One has 5 square meters of embedded solar cells on the roof and hood, allowing the battery to charge when the vehicle is exposed to sunlight. The battery cells function independently and produce a higher yield compared to conventional solar cells, according to Lightyear. 

To develop the solar cells, Lightyear teamed up with Silicon Valley-based company SunPower Corporation, integrating its 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, which are based on technology invented at Stanford University. 

The Lightyear One EV 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 typical 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 company says. The EV allows motorists to drive up to 12,400 miles a year using only the power of the sun, depending on the climate. 

The Lightyear One EV is also equipped with four in-wheel electric motors, making the vehicle lighter, while giving the driver more control and reducing the energy loss from motor to wheel, according to the company. This type of in-wheel electric motor is also used by U.S. electric truck startup Lordstown Motors.

5fa9742be3d48a9384277619_04 Lightyear One Product Page In the city-3.jpeg

The Lightyear One EV has solar panels on the roof and hood to help charge the battery.

In 2019, TIME Magazine named the Lightyear One in its list of the "100 Best Inventions." In 2020, Lightyear won the "Rising Star" and "Most Disruptive Innovator" Award of the Technology Fast 50 program organized by Deloitte. 

In 2020, Lightyear deployed two research vehicles outfitted with its 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, which are intended to validate Lightyear's innovative solar-electric technology.

Lightyear says its second model will be available in Europe, the U.S. and other global markets at a more accessible starting price point of €30,000 (US$39,698). 

Last month, Lightyear announced a partnership with Silicon Valley startup Sibros, a developer of a connected vehicle software platform for automakers which can run on any vehicle architecture.

Lightyear will integrate Sibros' OTA Deep Logger, which will allow the company to collect real world driving data from all of the Lightyear One's sensors. 

The partnership with Sibros provides Lightyear with software to collect and manage vehicle data from the One EV, as well as the ability to perform remote diagnostics and update the vehicle's sub systems remotely. Sibros' Deep Logger will help accelerate Lightyear's speed-to-market by providing a safe and secure vehicle data platform.

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