TNO and Lightyear extend collaboration

Solar powered cars
17 September 2020

TNO is extending its collaboration with Lightyear; a high-tech start-up company from Helmond, that will launch the first solar-powered car on the market next year. In a recently signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) the two technology innovators agreed to continue to combine resources and extend their global leadership in the field of E-mobility solar solutions. TNO will continue to customize and improve its solar energy technology for mobile applications together with Lightyear, a world leader in innovative and fully sustainable electric vehicles.

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Contact Jan-Willem Sangers

Prototype Lightyear One. Foto Lightyear.

Next-generation technology

Bonna Newman, program manager of solar energy and transportation at TNO: “We are excited to continue to assist Lightyear and accelerate the realization of vehicle integrated solar components. Our multi-disciplinary team is focused on developing technology that meets the technical demands of both the PV and automotive industries, as well as the safety standards of the government and public.”

To make this happen, researchers at TNO have adapted DSM’s conductive back sheet foil, normally used for rectangular solar panels, in order to produce aerodynamic. curved solar components that are more energy efficient, lighter in weight and suitable for volume manufacturing. Improvements to the technology will enable Lightyear to implement it faster in new vehicles and integrate it seamlessly into the vehicle production process.

Guaranteeing safety

In the new phase of research and development, a great deal of attention is being paid to safety aspects. Arjo van der Ham, CTO of Lightyear: “Together with TNO we are focusing on ensuring that solar vehicles will comply with all existing and forthcoming legal and safety regulations and the EU legislation aimed at the efficient, zero-emission vehicles of the future. This will require novel testing methods and innovative solutions, as current standards do not cover cars in which solar cells are an integral part of the vehicle.”

New prototypes

Lightyear has recently added the solar technology developed with TNO on Volkswagen and Tesla vehicles. Prototypes have been made with the VW Crafter LCV van and with an integrated sunroof in the Tesla Model 3 sedan. Both vehicles are now being tested on the road. With these vehicles, Lightyear is demonstrating the added value of integrated solar cells in vehicles and is collecting detailed data to improve the performance, safety and lifespan of the PV modules, in collaboration with, amongst others, TNO.

Lightyear One

In recent years, TNO and Lightyear have made major progress in the development of integrated solar components for the Lightyear One, partially funded by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency. Lightyear One has a range of 725 kilometres. With integrated solar, it recharges itself both when it is parked and when it is on the move. The prototype was presented last summer.