The struggles continue for the still-young solar car industry, as Dutch startup Lightyear is reportedly bankrupt and has announced plans to pivot to manufacturing solar roofs for cars instead of a full solar car.
What is happening?
Lightyear has already had a bumpy ride — its first car, the Lightyear 0, was supposed to start deliveries in 2022, but the company went bankrupt before that could happen. After securing a new round of investments, Lightyear began to design a new version of the car called Lightyear 2.
Unfortunately, deja vu has struck, and Lightyear is now bankrupt again. This time, CEO and co-founder Lex Hoefsloot has indicated that the company is done (for now) trying to deliver on a completely solar-powered car.
However, Hoefsloot did tell Silicon Canals that Lightyear would be, “deploying integrated solar systems for cars at scale as these are closest to the market. For the other core technologies (e.g. the inwheel-motors) Lightyear continues to strengthen its collaboration and partnerships strategy to get highly efficient solar vehicles to market. We believe that this stronger focus and stepwise approach will be the fastest way to impact.”
Why is this concerning?
While there is, in theory, a great demand for solar cars — electric vehicles are rising in popularity, and solar cars carry the promise of an EV that can passively generate its own electricity without costing customers anything extra or requiring them to plug in — that has, unfortunately, not translated to a completed product on the market.
Other similar solar car companies, such as Aptera, have made big claims about their EVs but also have yet to make it to market while being constantly strapped for cash.
What is next for the solar car industry?
A mass-produced, fully solar-powered car still seems inevitable — the only question is when. Working prototypes already exist, including several built by a team of Dutch university students.
The solar car is clearly possible, and it is hard to imagine that it would be unable to find a consumer base, but the challenges seem to be on the business side of things.
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