Lex Hoefsloot, founder and CEO of the solar car start-up known as Lightyear was named the winner of the VPRO Toekomstbouwers competition last night. The jury praised his inventiveness and perseverance.

Hoefsloot also received 10,000 euros in prize money. The competition final (Dutch) can be seen on VPRO TV.


As Lex Hoefsloot knows, if you fit an electric car head to toe with solar panels, it is more or less self-sufficient in its electricity requirements. With this in mind, he's working on a solar car topped with advanced solar panels. The electromotors are located in the wheels.

Last year, De Ingenieur presented Lex Hoefsloot as one of the Netherlands' most talented engineers. The introduction was as follows.

Solar king


Whether or not he's the new Elon Musk, remains to be seen. Lex Hoefsloot certainly doesn't want to compare himself with the successful entrepreneur, but has a great deal of respect for him. Musk founded Tesla with a hefty starting capital, earned on selling PayPal. With its pretty daring strategy, the company has been operating at a loss for many years. It was only recently that the production began, rather tentatively, of the larger series of cars on which the company's survival depends.

Hoefsloot does not have the benefit of such starting capital. He does, however, have vast experience, gained as founder and leader of the Eindhoven student team responsible for building Stella Lux, the first family car to run on solar energy. The students won the famous race in Australia twice, in their category. Hoefsloot has invested all that knowledge in Lightyear, the company with which he plans to manufacture the first production car on solar energy.


Quirky drop model

It's hard to imagine where to start when you plan to build a car from scratch, but Hoefsloot remains cool and collected. 'I just think it's a fantastic challenge. And don't forget, we have in fact already been working on it for five years. We're also receiving a great deal of support from some 50 companies with whom we've been working for years. You know, the Netherlands is the perfect place to build the car: we have a good automotive sector and a good solar energy sector.'

What Hoefsloot loves about his role as CEO of Lightyear is its multidisciplinary nature: developing the technology and simultaneously ensuring that the business side of things is successful. 'That's quite a challenge, as we're the first to give it a try. We really are consistently reinventing our own wheels.'

Has he made any silly mistakes? 'For the Australian race, we designed our Stella Lux to drive as economically as possible. I can't help regretting that nowadays, because that quirky drop shape is not exactly sexy, and that's the image we're stuck with at the moment. My lesson would be: make sure your product looks good right from the start.'

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Illustrations: Marcel Groenen.

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