It’s not getting nearly as much attention as most of the electric cars on the market today, but over the past couple of years, there has been some very real progress made on a new generation of solar-powered electric cars.
If you’re a regular reader of these pages, you already know about two of the companies taking the lead on solar-powered electric cars: Aptera and Sono Group (NASDAQ: SEV).
Aptera is the company behind a very unique vehicle that can deliver up to 40 miles of solar-powered driving per day. This is not trivial, as data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics show the average commute for U.S. drivers is around 40 miles per day.
Of course, this solar-powered “fuel” is merely a bonus to a vehicle that, after getting a full charge at home or at a public charging station, can deliver a driving range of up to 1,000 miles.
There isn’t even a traditional internal combustion engine vehicle that can deliver a 1,000-mile range on a full tank of gas or diesel.
This is a pretty big deal. And while the Aptera solar-powered vehicle is unlikely to effectively compete directly with the likes of GM (NYSE: GM), Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA), or Ford (NYSE: F), the company has been able to demonstrate that electric vehicle driving ranges can more than quadruple from where they are right now.
Then there’s the Sono Group’s Sion.
The Sono Group is actually a German company that’s developing a vehicle that can also be powered by the sun, using solar cells that are embedded in the plastic body panels on the roof and the sides of the vehicle.
The company did hit a roadblock a few months ago after announcing it would have to quickly raise a large chunk of cash to continue building the vehicle. But between an influx of reservation holders opting to pony up the full price of the vehicle before even getting it and a recent infusion of cash from the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency, it’s looking more and more likely that the good folks over at Sono will now be able to continue developing the vehicle, which offers 70 miles of solar-powered driving and around 200 miles after being charged at home or at a public charging station.
What’s particularly intriguing about Sono, however, is not just the solar angle, but the fact that the company expects to deliver these solar-powered vehicles to consumers at just $25,000. And that doesn’t include any tax credits or subsidies. Depending upon where you live, this thing could cost as little as $20k. Not bad for a car that’ll never require you to spend a penny on gas or oil changes
Certainly we’ll continue to watch Sono Group closely to see if the company can actually pull this off.
Now consider the Dutch startup, Lightyear, which recently suspended production on its first vehicle to move onto its second offering, the Lightyear 2, which can deliver about 40 miles of driving from its integrated solar power system, and a full 500 miles after a proper charge at home or at a public charging station.
The starting price on the Lightyear 2 comes in at around $40,000, which is also pretty impressive given the 500-mile all-electric range.
The company already has about 20,000 pre-orders for the vehicle, which is expected to be available by 2025.
It should be noted that we’re still in the very early stages of solar-powered electric vehicles, and while the first round should be on the roads in just a few more years, I suspect those will quickly become overshadowed by newer solar-powered electric vehicle models that will see a more than doubling of solar-powered ranges, thanks to everything from lighter weight materials to advanced vehicle designs to higher-efficiency solar cells.
Looking at this first generation of highway-capable solar-powered electric cars reminds me a lot of when I was looking at the earlier versions of electric cars that we now use today. This was roughly 15 years ago, when I was very bullish, but also had plenty of questions about how durable they’d be, how efficiently they’d operate, and of course, how much they’d cost. But make no mistake: solar-powered electric cars are a real thing, and they’ll be on the roads before you know it.