The Netherlands-based startup Lightyear has unveiled an electric car with five square meters of built-in solar panels and therefore does not need to be plugged in to charge. In an optimum situation, a range of 43 miles is achievable daily.

The integration of solar panels directly into the car’s chassis is something EV enthusiasts have been asking for many years. However, it is a tough problem as solar cells are typically not designed to be laid out on a curved surface. These cells should also be protected by a layer of hardened glass that tends to be flat.

In any case, Lightyear has solved some of the technical challenges at a price: the Lightyear 0 costs $260,000 and will be produced in limited quantities (less than 1000). However, the company promises that more cost-effective models will come in the future.

Forty-three miles doesn’t seem like much, but the car is capable of more since its battery has enough capacity for a 388 miles range. If your commute is short enough, you might not need to plug the car for months at a time, according to Lightyear.

That said, the maximum range should be considered in light of the relatively modest 170HP produced and the top 62MPH speed. This car is an efficient commuter that might not be the most fun to drive.

Overall, I like where Lightyear is going, and I want them to succeed and push this technology further. After all, it looks like only 1/3 of the car is covered in solar panels, so there’s more room for improvement.

On the other hand, I have to admit it’s much easier and more economical to install solar at home and charge from there or use public solar infrastructure. Finally, the cost of building the car (including carbon footprint) must be considered.

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