The World Solar Challenge is a race across 1,878 miles of the Australian Outback. Held every two or three years since 1987, the race is typically run with vehicles entered by universities or corporations and must run entirely on solar power. Somehow Dutch teams have won their class 10 times and finished second three times in the 15 races held to date. And while most WSC “cars” don’t seem the tiniest bit suitable for consumer transportation, the Dutch university team Solar Team Eindhoven has won three times in the larger “cruiser” class for potentially road-legal multi-passenger vehicles. Some graduates of that program have formed the Lightyear company in Helmond, Netherlands to leverage the team’s vast WSC learnings and produce a solar-powered car. That car, the Lightyear One, is expected to reach production in late 2022, and it’s supposedly heading stateside.
Taking a page from Tesla, Lucid, Rivian, and most other successful EV startups, the first product—cleverly dubbed Lightyear One—will be a big, roomy, expensive sedan. Its exterior dimensions almost perfectly match those of a Mercedes CLS-Class. That 16-foot-long-plus fastback bodywork makes room for 54 square feet of solar cells (rear-view cameras compensate for the obscured rear visibility).