Automotive is at one of the most crucial moments ever seen in more than its 100 years of history. In addition to the change of habits in the mobility of the consumers, that will affect the use and the ownership of vehicles in the near future, we have to take into account the changes that will affect the automobile.
On one side, one of these important changes will be in the technologies that will move future cars, which is quite likely to be far from engines running on fossil fuels. On the other side, it’s still to come what types of materials will be incorporated into the bodies of those cars to make them even more efficient but without reducing security.
While we see how these questions are resolved, in a future in which, it seems, the electric mobility is about to impose, one of the most important hurdles for its final push, the autonomy of electric vehicles, could be resolved sooner than later with a solution that will affect precisely the "body" of cars. How? With the use of solar panels in the bodywork that will allow for charging while in motion.
This wouldn't be a new thing, as solar panels in the bodywork is a technology that has been growing for a while, although certainly with more intensity in the last years. Audi, Ford, Tesla, or Faraday Future are only some examples of this application. Toyota has also recently done trials on a Prius that were successful.
However, until now they were only prototypes, and no vehicles were ready (or almost) ready for sale. Until now...
It's been only months since Lightyear One was introduced to society, the first long range solar car in the world. It will be in the market in less than two years, in 2021, and will have an autonomy of 725 km according to the new WLTP cycle.
This is all dependent on the type of driving and the weather conditions or climate. Like this, in winter, when the solar light is less intense, it's capable of running for 400km, including having the heat on.
This is possible thanks to the 5 m2 of integrated solar cells, appropriately located in the body of the car (roof and hood) under a thick security glass, which is so resistant that an adult can walk on top of them without causing any dents. These cells capture 20% more energy than a normal panel, including in the shade and adding an autonomy of 20km per hour, whether the car is moving or stopped.
Lightyear One has an exceptionally aerodynamic body, thanks to a totally closed front, aerodynamic wheels, cameras in place of traditional rearview mirrors, a long "tail" and showy bodywork in the rear wheel arch.
It is so aerodynamic that it is assured that the production units will offer an aerodynamic coefficient less than 0,20 CX. And it's not exactly small, as the One measures 5,06 m in length, 1,90 wide and 1,43 tall. Because of this, it's not strange that it's trunk holds 780 liters. In addition, it's fabricated with high technology materials in order to weigh the least amount possible (estimated to be around 1.300 kg) and at the same time maintaining a strict security for its 5 passengers.
However, this isn't the only project in the works with panels in the bodywork. Another, being less ambitious in terms of performance, could come to light in 2019. It’s the Sono Sion, a car that just months ago introduced its (almost) final version.
And when we say that the Sion is less ambitious because, with the same solar panel technology covering the bodywork, it promises 250 km of autonomy (according to the WLTP cycle) after a fast 30 minute charging time of its 35kWh battery. And its price? Starting at 25.500 euros, it's not strange that it already has around 10.000 reserved.
Thanks to the technology developed by Sono motors (http://sonomotors.com), the 248 solar cells are cast into the surface of the vehicle and can generate up to 34 km of additional daily autonomy in a sunny day in Germany.
For its part, the lithium ion battery has a capacity of 35kWh, although the German start-up plans to equip it with a 120kW engine so that it can also tackle steep climbs and irregular surfaces, not being only limited to urban environments.
Together, the solar panels generate a maximum potential of 1, 2kW and it is expected that the Sion weighs 1,4 tons, including the battery and the solar panels installed on the roof, hood, doors and rear and front wings.
In relation to the concept it's turning bigger, larger and wider, it's probable that the production version comes with more spaciousness, also in the trunk, with up to 650 liters of volume.