With in-wheel motors, Lightyear claims most efficient production powertrain in the world

The Lightyear 0 solar-assisted electric car will use in-wheel motors from Slovenia’s Elaphe as part of what Lightyear claims will be the most efficient powertrain in any production car.

Lightyear announced the partnership with Elaphe earlier this month, claiming in a press release that the two companies work together to achieve “world-class efficiencies” from Elaphe’s motor design. Lightyear is far from the only company aiming to use in-wheel motors, but most others consider them beneficial because they free up space within a vehicle’s footprint. The efficiency angle is unusual.

Elaphe in-wheel motor for Lightyear 0

Elaphe in-wheel motor for Lightyear 0

The motors will be used in the Lightyear 0, a production version of the Lightyear One that made its public debut earlier this month. Lightyear aims to “leapfrog the grid” by both maximizing efficiency and equipping its vehicles with onboard solar panels that can help with charging. In cloudy climates, with an average commute of roughly 20 miles per day, the Lightyear 0 can go up to two months without plugging in, Lightyear claims.

Starting at the equivalent of $263,000, the Lightyear 0 will be built in Finland by Valmet Automotive, with motors supplied from Elaphe’s facilities in Slovenia. European deliveries are scheduled to start in November, but Lightyear hasn’t confirmed plans to expand to other markets. A more affordable model is also in the works, but likely won’t arrive until 2024 or 2025.

Lightyear 0

Lightyear 0

In addition to the Lightyear 0, the Lordstown Endurance pickup truck is still due to use a version of Elaphe in-wheel motors, made locally in Ohio. Lordstown announced a licensing deal with Elaphe in 2020, but soon ran into financial difficulties that stalled the Endurance’s launch. Lordstown has since sold its Ohio factory to Foxconn, which will now produce the truck under contract.

Aptera also plans to use in-wheel motors in its electric 3-wheeler, a choice effectively dictated by the vehicle’s unusual design. Another similarity to Lightyear is the use of solar panels to boost range. Aptera claims its EV will be able to travel up to 1,000 miles between charges using a combination of solar and battery power.

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