Someone’s invented a long-range solar-powered car?

Yep. The Lightyear One has been designed by Netherlands-based company Lightyear. The firm was founded by alumni of Solar Team Eindhoven, which won the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge race in 2013, 2015 and 2017.

It was their success in the race that inspired them to develop the car and technology even further, working with people who’ve come from motor racing, Tesla and the aerospace industry. “We have a very different mindset, as a company,” says CEO and co-founder Lex Hoefsloot. “We wanted to get into the mindset of making a super-efficient car. It’s thinking about cars differently from how we used to.”

How long-range are we talking?

Lightyear One is pretty competitive compared with other electric cars. Worst-case scenario: in cold weather, with the heating on, at fast motorway speeds, Lightyear claims the car can manage about 400km (250 miles). In more ideal conditions, it can travel 725km (450 miles) before it needs a charge.

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Lightyear wanted to get rid of the issues that concern many people about electric cars, such as ‘range anxiety’ and a lack of charging infrastructure, so the car will reportedly charge up to 350km (217 miles) overnight from a standard 230V outlet.

You said it was solar-powered. Why do I have to plug it in?

You won’t always be able to get by on solar power alone in some parts of the world – like miserable old Blighty.

Still, in the brightest two months of the year in the UK, you shouldn’t need to charge it from an outlet as the car will be able to gain enough power from sunlight – though that depends on how far you need to go, of course.

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People living in sunnier climes can enjoy more solar-powered driving. For example, residents of Phoenix, Arizona, could manage 224 days.

So is it coated in solar panels?

Not quite. The bonnet and roof are covered in more than 1,000 solar cells. Lightyear has developed the technology to make the cells as efficient and lightweight as possible, while still being strong. They are sturdy enough, in fact, for an adult to stand on without breaking them.

It will solar charge up to 12km (7.5 miles) every hour when in daylight, whether it’s sitting outside your house or driving along the road. That’s not bad – on a sunny day you could park up outside your work and after eight hours you’d have nearly 97km (60 miles) of charge to play with.

What does Lightyear One look like?

Lightyear wanted to create a car of the future, and its sleek lines certainly deliver. From its reduced weight and drag, to a small battery, everything has been optimised to make it as efficient as possible. Plus, it’s got the mod cons you would expect, like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

There’s also a 230V power outlet inside, which, according to Hoefsloot, essentially turns the car into “a power bank with solar cells on the roof”. The company is also sharing its technology with other manufacturers.

How fast does Lightyear One go?

Top speed is 160km/h, so about 100mph.

How much does Lightyear One cost?

You can reserve one for a hefty €149,000 (£133,000). Hoefsloot is optimistic that prices will drop as production increases.

“If we push energy consumption down, and therefore energy cost, and maintenance costs down, then you will get to very low costs per kilometre,” he says. “And this is the strategy we are using to get to super-affordable price points in 10 to 15 years.”

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Alice Lipscombe-SouthwellManaging editor, BBC Science Focus

Alice is the managing editor at BBC Science Focus Magazine. She has a BSc in zoology with marine zoology. Her interests include natural history, wildlife, the outdoors, health and fitness.