“Lightyear is not trying to sell as many cars as possible”
Lightyear, the Dutch builder of solar vehicles, is one the most noteworthy new players in sustainable mobility. We catch up with its co-founder, Maartijn Lammers, who held a keynote at the Fleet Europe Summit 2022 in Dublin at the opening night of The Village. As the chief strategist he elaborates on his company’s vision of a sustainable mobility for the future.
What is the vision of Lightyear on sustainability and how does it differ from other mobility providers or car makers?
Well, for us it starts with the efficiency of the vehicle itself. Lightyear really believes there’s much more driving comfort with a smaller battery that you can charge much quicker on a relatively small charging station. Where it helps is that these smaller batteries use less energy and are less dependent on infrastructure, solving the chicken and egg problem for EVs, taking away people’s distrust in charging infrastructure. With the smaller battery pack, the design of the vehicle is the efficiency and it also makes this car applicable for a sort of broader market. On a more abstract level, we really believe that you can also build efficiency into your business model. So, in the long run, we try to build a car company that doesn't earn its money from selling as many cars as possible but providing as much mobility, or as many mileage, as possible. Because then in the end, our company will get the sort of survival instinct we want: to build as few cars as possible and drive as much as possible, which in the end, is the most sustainable way. But there are many steps in between, right?
When the driveline is sustainable, the need shifts to make the car building blocks sustainable. Is Lightyear keeping track of its materials?
Yeah, of course. The starting point is to find the most sustainable materials possible and track them very closely so that we know what we can improve over time. You see growing transparency in the market, and we really believe in it as well. Also, if the mileage driven or mobility provided is longer, then you can divide that over the impact of building the car and way more value is created for what the car is meant to do. For our interiors, we don't use any animal products. So it's all plant-based or vegan or whatever you want to call it. We know where our steel and aluminium come from and how it's made but unfortunately, we don't have the ability yet to make that all as sustainable as possible. But this is also knowing where we can improve.
Choosing solar panels in a car is very divergent. But what problem exactly must it solve?
The solar panel is less than half of the solution. It really starts with an efficient EV. And only after a certain point it really makes sense to put solar on top of the car as well as it starts adding significant mileage and significant extra comfort for customers. And, of course, the solar that you generate on the top of the car is the most sustainable energy that you can put in.
How important is the fleet market for the success of Lightyear?
I think it's super important. It's a large part of the market, and the advantages make that our car also performs very well on the fleet level, which will be even more so for our upcoming models. The TCO is very competitive. With very few moving parts for maintenance and less need for a large fleet. Think also about the deployment of infrastructure. We work with much lower power infrastructure, which is much more affordable to install. So those things together make it a really, really good combination.
Lightyear struck a deal with Leaseplan for an order of 5,000 cars. That cooperation stems from before ALD Automotive acquired them. Do the plans remain intact?
There's no reason to start thinking differently about that. We have a long-standing relationship with Leaseplan, also for Zero. We really share that vision of an electric car that charges itself, and they see those advantages for their customers as well. That's why it's really a good match.
Image: Benjamin Brolet