The Squad, a new urban car from an Amsterdam-based startup, is barely bigger than a bicycle: Parked sideways, up to four of the vehicles can fit in a standard parking spot. The electric two-seater’s tiny size is one reason that it doesn’t use much energy—and in a typical day of city driving, it can run entirely on power from a solar panel on its own roof. A swappable battery provides extra power when needed.
The car is slated to begin production in late 2022, and will be priced at around $6,800. The two cofounders previously worked at Lightyear, a startup making a solar-powered electric car for the luxury market. Lightyear’s first car will start at around $135,000, though the cost will go down as production increases. “We saw the potential of solar charging,” says Robert Hoevers, CEO of Squad Mobility. “But we both agreed that it was a shame that the car was only available for the happy few. We wanted to make a vehicle that’s basically available to everybody.”
Since the new car is designed for use only on city streets, with a top speed of 28 mph, it’s well suited for solar power. “Because the speeds are lower, the energy usage is lower, you can do more with your solar energy,” Hoevers says. As the car sits outside, it can generate enough energy in a day to drive around 12 miles, more than it takes to run a typical errand. (In the U.S., nearly half of all car trips in cities are shorter than 3 miles, and 20% are shorter than 1 mile.) Having solar power makes the car easier to use, since it doesn’t need frequent charging, and helps reduce demand on the local grid. But the portable battery in the car can also be taken out and charged indoors, so apartment-dwellers don’t have to worry about where to plug in.