Lightyear wins race to market with start of solar EV production in Finland
Scooter Doll | Nov 30 2022 — 6:16 am PT
Just six years after what began as a solar vehicle competition among students, Lightyear has reached a watershed moment in clean mobility. Today, the company officially kicked off the start of production for the Lightyear 0 solar EV at Valmet Automotive in Uusikaupunki, Finland, and we were fortunate enough to be the only US media outlet in attendance. Today not only proves that solar EVs are possible, but also scalable, kicking off an even more sustainable echelon of zero-emission mobility.
For those of you who are not yet aware, Lightyear began as a group of engineering students competing as Solar Team Eindhoven, capturing four world championships together. The team’s early success in solar mobility would fortify the roots that would eventually sprout into Lightyear – a startup determined to bring a commercial, street-legal version of a solar EV to the world.
In 2019, the Lightyear One made its official debut, touting tremendous range with the help of the sun. In 2020, we got our first up-close look at an early prototype of the Lightyear One outside CES in Las Vegas.
Since then, Lightyear’s flagship SEV has seen a name change with the launch of its production version, following well-documented performance and efficiency testing. After following the startup’s progress since 2017, we finally got the opportunity to drive the Lightyear 0 this past summer, and it did not disappoint. Neither did the technology within the solar EV itself, developed in-house by the Lightyear team – a group of individuals that work hard, have fun, and “just simply get it” when it comes to the future of clean mobility.
In 2021, Lightyear announced its solar EV would be assembled by Valmet Automotive in Finland – a contract manufacturer with over 50 years of experience building vehicles for nearly every legacy automaker at one point or another. Since 2009, Valmet has had the foresight to begin shifting its manufacturing to support electrification, and even built the short-lived Fisker Karma way back when.
In taking CATL on as a shareholder in 2017, Valmet Automotive has significantly bolstered its EV battery manufacturing while simultaneously supporting solar EV production for startups like Lightyear and most recently, Sono Motors.
I trekked from sunny Los Angeles to Helsinki by way of Paris, followed by a two-plus-hour car ride up to frigid Uusikaupunki to attend today’s opening ceremony, and was happy to do so (I got to try reindeer mousse for the first time, so there’s that).
Today not only marks the start of production for Lightyear, but delivers a proof of concept for scalable solar EV technology one would hope goes widespread as the most sustainable form of automotive travel to date.