The world’s first production-ready solar car, the Lightyear0, will arrive in the UAE early next year, not long after the cars hit the market in Europe at the end of 2022.
There are plans for the $244,000 (Dh894,000) cars manufactured by Lightyear to be tested and sold in the Middle East, with the promise of being able to drive for months without requiring a charge.
The Dutch company teamed up with Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park with plans to perhaps set up an office in the emirate after it taps the investment appetite in the region.
Powered by the Sun
Fitted with five square metres of solar panels on the roof and bonnet, the price of Lightyear0 in the UAE and the Middle East has yet to be announced.
A demonstration model was unveiled at the SRTIP zone on Thursday and will be taken to different cities to promote the technology.
The Lightyear0 vehicle will arrive in Sharjah early next year.
About 150 cars priced at €250,000 ($242,333) were sold in the EU even before the manufacturing facility in Finland begins production at the end of November.
The company will manufacture 946 cars, aiming to prove it is possible to drive simply by harnessing solar power.
“We sold 150 cars. These were sold before starting production, they are already spoken for,” Tom Selten, vice president of business development, told The National.
“We are producing a limited amount of vehicles. It will be a very exclusive car. In the next few months we want to get Lightyear0 there [UAE)]to show it’s possible and feasible to drive on solar power directly.
“We are aiming at bringing our vehicles early next year.”
Through a partnership with SRTIP, the company is exploring the market in the region.
“We are investigating if it’s feasible to have the vehicles on the road in the Middle East," Mr Selten said.
“SRTIP have an excellent research and innovation hub for future collaborations with Lightyear. For us, it’s a potentially fruitful collaboration.
“We want to start to create awareness about the brand and hope to work constructively with them in the years to come.”
First commercially sold solar-powered car
The goal of the company, which was founded in 2016, is to reach a mass market in two years with the Lightyear2 pegged at a price between $30,000 and $50,000.
Cars drawing energy from the Sun have rarely reached beyond the experimentation phase and this will be the first solar electric car to be sold commercially.
Lightyear says the car could run in sunny countries for up to seven months without a charge.
Cars tested in Europe have been driven for more than 600 kilometres on a single battery charge.
The curved solar panels draw power from the sun and add about 70 kilometres of driving range from solar energy.
The panels continuously draw power from the sun and top up the electric battery while it is being driven and even when it is parked outdoors.
The design allows the car to drive for months without requiring it to be plugged in for a recharge.
Hussain Al Mahmoudi, chief executive officer of SRTIP, saw an opportunity for investors in the UAE.
“We want to test some of the technology related to this car in this region and work out a programme with our universities and students to engage them in testing," he said.
SRTI park is also helping Lightyear to raise capital in the Middle East. While Lightyear0 has primarily been sold in Europe, the market for the next model is the US and the Middle East.
Limitless power source
The temperatures of the UAE summer make it an ideal test location.
“We want to test our vehicle in these conditions to make sure the whole car works,” Mr Selten said.
“In the summer it gets really hot here compared with the Netherlands, so that is a really good test to demonstrate our technology.”
The chance to analyse performance when driving between UAE cities makes the country a strong choice, with Mr Selten saying drivers in the Emirates may never need to plug the car in at all.
“We don’t see Lightyear vehicles will need to be charged in the UAE because they can charge via solar power,” he said.