A Dutch start-up is bringing a completely solar-powered electric car to market, which is the world's first solar-powered family vehicle that could theoretically let some drivers go for months without recharging.
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The start-up Lightyear promises to combine on-board solar cells with an efficient battery pack and an optimised design to deliver a road legal 4-seat electric car that can charge itself from sunlight.

Beginning as a university project by students at TU Eindhoven in the Netherlands in 2013, the Lightyear One was developed by the ream that won the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in the 2013 cruiser class, which is a solar-powered car race held every year.

After spending years developing the race-winning vehicle, the students turned their attention to making the prototype a commercially viable family saloon option, and now has five orders for its EU$119,000 (AU$178,000) vehicle.

Assembled in the Netherlands at the Helmond Automotive Campus, and built using Dutch parts, the launch of the Lightyear One is expected to be achieved with investment of just a few million euros.

The Lightyear One has a 500-mile driving range and could theoretically cover 10,000km a year under Dutch sunshine, and doubling to more than 20,000km in sunnier climates such as Hawaii and California.

In terms of the finer details and specs of the Lightyear One go, the facts are still rather scarce, but the company states that the vehicle can be charged in four different ways - solar, a standard household outlet, a standard EV charger, or an EV fast charger.

According to Lightyear CEO Lex Hoefsloot, while the Lightyear One does feature standard charging point typical of normal EVs, he believes the Lightyear One can be operated completely independent of charging points.

"It's a revolutionary step forward in electric mobility because we are able to combine a great look with extreme efficiency," Hoefsloot said.

"The first model makes science fiction become reality - cars powered using just the sun, and is ideal for eco-conscious drivers who live in regions with few EV charging stations.

"This is statement to show that electric cars are ready for every corner of the planet. It is the first step in our mission to make EVs available for everyone." 

A reported 3% of the world's population currently lives within 60 miles of public charging spot, making EV use troublesome in most parts of the world.

Integrated solar cells in the roof generate enough power to operate the car all day, and in sunny climates the Lightyear One can drive for months without being plugged in. 

At night or on cloudy days, the vehicle travels on a fully loaded battery, and can be revitalised using a standard household power socket, EV charging point, or EV fast charger.

In addition, the car could be used as a power source for a home or other application, with the solar cells and battery functioning as a micro solar plant.

"You can think of the Lightyear One as an electric car redesigned from the ground up to combine the best of solar cars and electric cars," Hoefsloot said. 

"The Lightyear One is a statement to show that electric cars are ready for every corner of the planet.

"It is the first step in our mission to make electric cars available for everyone."

The US is the launch market for the Lightyear One, with European deliveries expected in early 2019.

At this point, the vehicles will not be a mass production car and will have a limited run of just 10 cars in 2019 and 100 cars in 2020.

Lightyear is confident of securing an additional 200 orders for its flagship vehicle by early next year.