A practical solar car has been the stuff of sci-fi, mostly relegated to proofs of concept, but lately that changed as three credible makers are putting them on the market. Long-range EV buyers who think these cars will let them completely cut the cord are going to be disappointed, but those who have a realistic view of their driving needs might be enthused.
All of these early leaders still embrace plugged-in charging but layer on solar charging as a first line method to cover most ordinary driving. Whether that's true will depend on each driver's mileage needs and access to sunlight; clean car nuts who love to keep their car garaged or covered need not apply.
The Lightyear 0 comes off as the most sophisticated of the early solar cars, and for a quarter of a million dollars, it had better. Don't worry, the next two cars I show you cost about the same as the sales tax on this one.
Lightyear says the 54 square feet of solar panels across the top of their car can harvest as much as 45 miles of driving range per day on top of about 390 miles of total battery range (per the European WLTP test cycle, which tends to be optimistic compared to the US ratings). Of that range 320 miles can be garnered in about an hour when plugged into a DC fast charger.