Lightyear zeroes out 0 production to focus on more affordable Lightyear 2 solar EV, following encouraging wait list registrations

Less than two months after its official start of production, Lightyear has suddenly suspended all assembly of its flagship 0 solar EV. Instead, the Dutch company says it will shift all focus and resources on the development and production of its second model – the Lightyear 2. This comes as a bit of a shock and begs the question whether Lightyear will have the funds to get its second solar EV model into scaled production.

It’s been a long and (mostly) encouraging road for Lightyear up to this point, as the Netherlands-based startup, which started as a student solar vehicle competition, has been developing some of the more impressive in-house vehicle technology we’ve come across recently.

That began with the Lightyear 0, the company’s long-promised solar EV expected to be a genuine trailblazer in an unproven segment, seemingly destined to prove what was possible beyond traditional battery electric vehicles.

After driving the 0 prototype last summer, we were more confident than ever that Lightyear was onto something special. Not only by experiencing the Lightyear 0 from behind the wheel, but by discussing all the solar and EV tech with the teams that developed and implemented it.

Last November, we were present in Finland for the official start of Lightyear 0 production, forever solidifying the company name as the first to reach the market. However, that title may come with an asterisk as Lightyear announced a complete suspension of the solar EV’s production to instead focus on its second model.

Lightyear to refocus on 2 production, but can it get there?

Lightyear just posted a press release, announcing its revised business strategy, offering less than informative explanations hidden behind vague phrases like “overcoming challenges.” Due to these “challenges,” the Lightyear team explains that it will suspend all production of the 0 to focus entirely on the Lightyear 2.

This also includes a request to the court to suspend all incoming payments for its flagship model, sure to disappoint the near 1,000 customers who were expecting to receive delivery of not only the world’s first solar EV to reach the European market, but the most aerodynamic production vehicle in the world. Lightyear’s cofounder and CEO Lex Hoefsloot spoke:

Unfortunately we had to make this decision. The whole process of developing Lightyear 0 has provided our company many valuable learnings over the past years. We are now redirecting all our energy towards building Lightyear 2 in order to make it available to clients on schedule.

Its clear in getting to know the Lightyear team and in reading this release, that this decision was by no means taken lightly, and those who worked for years to get this solar electric baby onto an assembly line are likely reeling a lot more from this decision than any reservation holder, but it’s not encouraging news from a startup that has now taken a big step back from scaled SEV production.

With this decision, Lightyear is putting all of its solar powered eggs into one basket in the form of a $40,000 model with up to 500 miles of range called the Lightyear 2. Although the company has only teased brief images of the solar EV so far, the demand is quickly growing.

Lightyear’s wait list (not even pre-orders) opened on January 5 to customers in the US and Europe and has already surpassed 40,000 individual names, complimented by another 20,000 pre-orders from fleet customers. Hoefsloot elaborated:

We hope to conclude some key investments in the coming weeks in order to scale up to Lightyear 2, an affordable solar electric vehicle available for a wider audience.

A silver lining no doubt, but as Lightyear’s CEO alludes to above, the startup will need some serious investment money to succeed in its second attempt to scale toward viable solar EV production.

It’s currently unclear what Lightyear plans to do with the few 0 solar EVs that have been produced since Q4 of last year, or whether any of them have been delivered to customers. If so, the Lightyear 0 could end up being an even more exclusive collector’s vehicle that it would have been when Lightyear was still planning to build only 946 of them. We’ve asked the company for clarification.

We are sure to learn more about how Lightyear intends to scale its second attempt at a solar EV in the coming weeks and months, especially if it is in fact honing in on some “key investments.”

Electrek’s Take

This news comes as a shocker for me personally and judging by the timing of this, I’d surmise that there were several employees within Lightyear HQ that were blindsided by this news as well.

On a positive note, the appetite for the Lightyear 2 has already been tremendous, and most people have not even seen the full reveal (some lucky souls may have already seen it in person, though (*wink*).

For that reason, I can understand the shift of focus by Lightyear. You have a sleek, efficient, and most importantly, an affordable solar EV on your hands. It’s also donning much of the technology from the Lightyear 0, but some has even been perfected in some spots. It has the makings of a home run on paper, but will it make it into production?

What scares me is the sudden shift here, especially from a startup whose original strategy was to sell 946 of the 250,000 euro Lightyear 0 to help fund development and production of the 2. How do you fund the solar EV that is sure to sell more volume, but at a much lower MSRP? And how is Lightyear going to afford to scale to that level of production to support the high demand for such a vehicle?

A major production/contract manufacturing partner (or even two) feels almost imperative in this situation, so that’s some news I would keep keep an eye out for going forward. Perhaps even production in the EU and the US? All things I’m sure Lightyear is considering already.

I would think… I would hope, the Lightyear team has some very encouraging financial discussions going on behind closed doors to elicit such a bold and potentially lethal shift in its strategy. Still a fan of the company and its technology, so I’m absolutely rooting for them and the Lightyear 2 (of course I’m on the wait list). However, my confidence in the company’s future took a major hit today.

Between Sono Motors, Aptera, and now Lightyear, the future of solar EV mobility is being challenged. Let’s hope for the Earth’s sake that all three overcome their respective hurdles and succeed.

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