Last week Friday, the pioneers at Lightyear received the key and less than a week later the hall was opened under the watchful eye of the invited press, at the first press conference in the history of the young company. The mayor of Helmond Elly Blanksma- Van den Heuvel had the formal honor of opening the hall, where nothing gave any indication that within a few short months a solar car would be built there.
The mayor related how she had heard about this project. “Someone paid a visit to the Municipal Executive to share his dream with myself and the aldermen. We sat down with an open attitude and when Lex Hoefsloot told us what his dream was, I thought to myself, dreams can come true: the first genuinely Dutch design to roll off the production line here in Helmond. He told us his team had made a lot of progress already but that the prototype would have to be built somewhere else. Then I said, ‘No, never. If it is going to happen anywhere, it must be here’.”
Hundreds of employees
Thus, in the space of a year Lightyear managed to realize a hall of substantial size. And that's not all. The company already numbers some one hundred employees. Before all too long the team will outgrow its present location on the campus and so a new office is under construction. That office adjoins the production hall and will probably become operational in May 2019.
Moreover, Blanksma-van den Heuvel intends to do her best to make the car financially attractive. “I used to sit in the Lower House and I want to do what I can to make this car appealing from a tax perspective.”
In addition to the happy fact that the hall was opened, a cooperation agreement was signed between LeasePlan and Lightyear. It is intended that Lightyear One will soon become available as a lease car. What's more, the company will definitely buy twenty vehicles; that's been agreed. This will bring the current total to 77 sold cars, including the 57 already purchased by private individuals.
Hoefsloot, co-founder of Lightyear and TU/e alumnus, hopes the deal will open the doors to the rest of Europe. “With LeasePlan we have brought a strong partner on board, one who boosts us with solid network in the Netherlands and Europe,” tells the Helmond resident, who well knows where the difference will be made in the company's development. “As is the case for the electric car, business drivers will drive our progress.”
News has already reached Cursor that the Lightyear One has been available to book as a lease car since Thursday morning and that the first booking has already been taken. The lease price has currently been set at 1,949 euros per month. ”A new car made in the Netherlands, running on solar energy, you just can't resist doing something with that if you are a lease company and you love cars,” explains Erik Henstra of LeasePlan. “But much more importantly, we are committed to zero emissions. As a lease company we ourselves are going through this transition, because we want to take our responsibility and want to embark on this path together with our customers.”
Of the car itself there was little to be seen yesterday. There is a rolling chassis and the interior can be explored using virtual reality goggles. Hanging in the hall are a few large canvases showing the shapes of the revitalized design. But there is news in the form of specifications released for the first time. The team are counting on a driving range of 800 kilometers. And, more importantly, the use of the solar panels means the car needs much less frequent recharging (2.5 times less than a Tesla), and it emits - indirectly - much less CO₂ (4 times less than a Tesla).
Before the year is out the production hall should be in use. In the summer of 2019 a prototype will be produced, after which tests will take place at the end of 2019. After that, the first cars will be delivered in 2020.