A Light-powered Lightyear

A lightyear is a distance unit equivalent to 9,500,000,000,000 kilometres, the distance that light in a vacuum will travel in a year. It’s also the total distance travelled by cars every year.

That statistic is absolutely mind-blowing. Light travels 299,792 kilometres every second and if most cars are travelling an average of let’s say 0.02 km/s (about 70 km/h) then that means that in order to travel a lightyear by car in a year then that means we have to have … 14,989,600 cars travelling at 70 km/h … ALL THE TIME!

And we wonder why we have issues with atmospheric pollution, global warming and fossil fuel supply!

But one ambitious company sees this as a challenge. By 2035, only 17 years away, Lightyear One wants to see us drive a solar-powered lightyear, effectively replacing every car driven today with an electric one.

A Light-powered Lightyear
We drive an entire lightyear powered by fossil fuel. The Lightyear One car aims to change this!

It’d be a huge environmental success, being able to drive a light-powered lightyear, but is it feasible?

It really depends. Is there a market for solar-powered cars? If we suddenly deplete the remaining fossil fuel stores then great, we have this option! However, as we’re going today (let me be cynical!), our current cars are affordable, there’s always going to be a petrol station nearby in case of lengthy cloud (the Lightyear car has a range of 400-800km without sun) and most of the population doesn’t care about the long-term environmental impacts. Particularly for younger people (like students), second-hand cars are the only option, so we as a group will be running on petrol for a long time.

We also have to remember that this is new. We’re not used to even seeing electric cars, let alone solar, and people won’t accept them with wide arms. We tend to avoid change and are skeptical of the new ‘fad’. ‘Does it even work?’ is the question people will ask.

So think about it. It’d be great if these cars work well and really take off, but we can’t expect it to be quick even if it would make us a brilliantly sustainable, environmentally-friendly society!


If you’re really interested, click here for a video about the Lightyear One car!

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