Lightyear shelves solar EV plans, hires executives to spearhead solar systems for other OEMs

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Star-crossed startup Lightyear has finally thrown in the towel on attempting to bring its long-promised solar EVs to market – at least one donning its own badge and design language. The startup’s founding CEO, Lex Hoefsfloot, has been replaced as the born-again startup pivots toward solar panel development to be implemented on other companies’ vehicles. That, frankly, is just not as sexy.

It’s been an exciting yet disappointing seven-year journey for Lightyear. Like many startups, the solar EV company demonstrated some inspiring and potential industry-changing technology, only to fall short due to a lack of funds.

We at Electrek have covered much of that journey, including the evolution of Lightyear’s original solar EV concept into the Lightyear 0, and were even present for that seemingly pivotal, now less-relevant milestone in Finland, when the flagship SEV began production… briefly.

We were also there behind closed doors at CES 2023, and got an up-close look at the company’s true holy grail, the $40,000 Lightyear 2 SEV. Unbeknownst to us, Lightyear would announce it was filing for bankruptcy a few weeks later, selling off its assets including its 0 prototypes to try and regroup and try again.

By April 2023, Lightyear announced it had successfully restructured as a team of about 100, down from the original 600 originally employed, as it worked to pay back its creditors and once again focus on Lightyear 2 development, still led by founder and CEO Lex Hoefsloot.

Today, we learned that Hoefsloot is out as CEO, and Lightyear is abandoning Solar EV development in favor of onboard systems to sell to other manufacturers.

Lightyear solar EV
Lightyear’s new CEO Dr. Bonna Newman (left) and CFO Marnix Borghouts (right) / Source: Lightyear

Lightyear looks to provide solar systems to other EVs

Per a release out of the Netherlands this morning, Lightyear announced a leadership change that will pivot the startup’s entire business strategy toward on-board solar charging systems.

Dr. Bonna Newman has been appointed Lightyear’s new CEO and brings a Ph.D. in Physics from MIT and nearly two decades of work experience in the solar and vehicle-integrated photovoltaic sector.

Also joining the Lightyear team as its new CFO is Marnix Borghouts – a CPA and finance executive with over three decades of experience across several sectors. Newman and Borghouts will capitalize upon Lightyear’s remaining intellectual property developed for solar EVs under Hoefsloot and mold those technologies into onboard solar products to sell to others. Per Lightyear’s new CEO, Bonna Newman:

Lightyear has demonstrated how highly-efficient electric vehicles combined with on-board solar will accelerate the energy transition and benefit the world. Lightyear has set the stage for a new era of solar-powered mobility. I look forward to partnering our amazing team with the automotive industry to ensure the best on-board solar technology is available to everyone.

Lightyear shares that now-former CEO Lex Hoefsloot will stay with the startup he founded and transition into a new role that focuses on “the longer-term potential of the company,” e.g., solar tech for other OEMs. Lex also spoke:

I have great confidence in Bonna’s and Marnix’s leadership, their combined skillset is exactly what the company needs right now. I am confident they will take this company to new heights. As Lightyear is becoming more mature and shifts towards scaling the on-board solar technology, my skills are best put to use in a different role within the company. I will focus on getting more of our automotive technology IP stack onto the market and find the right partners to execute on the commercial potential of the Lightyear vehicle

Following its 2023 rebirth, Lightyear once again joins a list of startups that didn’t quite come to fruition. In the solar EV segment in particular, Lightyear now joins fellow EU startup Sono Motors in officially pivoting away from vehicle production to focus solely on solar systems.

That only leaves Southern California solar EV developer and reborn startup in its own right, Aptera Motors, as the last of the big three still fighting to reach scaled production. The company has had a lot of financial assistance from its community of loyal fans. Still, plenty of financial hurdles are ahead as it looks to begin Launch Edition SEV production later this year.

Aptera has developed its own solar cell technology, but perhaps it has a chat with Lightyear to see if any improvements can be made.

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