Lightyear One opts for circular Probox in its brand-new office building
The founders of Lightyear One had a single dream: to produce a solar-powered car that isn’t just for the rich and famous. Six years later, the dream of their youth seems to be creeping ever closer to reality. Back in 2016, they were still a team of five in a tiny office in Eindhoven; now they have a hyper-modern factory on the Automotive Campus in Helmond, and some 550 employees. To help give these employees a pleasant working environment, the company decided to install JUUNOO’s Probox system. “We noticed that during the pandemic our staff evolved a strong online meeting culture. We wanted to find a solution to enable that to continue, but we wanted to make sure we chose something sustainable and circular,” explains Jet Rubingh, Lightyear One’s facility coordinator.
Today, we have an online meeting with Jet Rubingh herself, who wants to tell us more about Lightyear One and the project that JUUNOO installed for the company. When she switches on her camera, we immediately recognise the interior of one of our own Proboxes. Fantastic to see them in active use! She tells us that the sparkling new booths are occupied almost all the time. We ask Jet about her role at Lightyear One. A smile lights up her face instantly. “I joined the team four years ago – and my first project was to build a new production hall with a floor area of a good 3000 m2 along with an office building on another 1000 m2. Quite a challenge to start with!” she laughs. “A lot has changed since then. When I joined, we had a team of about 45 people. Today we have 400 employees. And we want to double that number by the end of this year.” In other words, the company is expanding exponentially.
where it all began
Lightyear One was established in 2016 by Lex Hoefsloot, Arjo van der Ham, Martijn Lammers, Qurein Biewenga and Koen van Ham. Their story actually began three years before that, when they, with the Solar Team Eindhoven, won the 2013 Solar Challenge in Australia. This is a biennial competition, in which vehicles must travel from Darwin to Adelaide using only solar energy – some 3021 kilometres! The race inspired co-founder Lex Hoefsloot to build the first ever solar-powered passenger car. And it was a success. Their car has a range of 725 km, putting it a leap ahead of any other electric competitors on the market. During the summer months, you rarely need to charge the car at a regular charging post – leave that to the car’s solar panels.
If you’d like to have your own Lightyear One parked on your drive, it will cost you a hefty 250,000 euros. We were curious who has that cash to spare nowadays. “Our customers either love cars, particularly electric cars, and are excited to have the latest model, or they have an overarching ambition to make sustainability the norm,” Jet tells us. “Of course, we are also counting on support from the government and private investors for the launch: people that aren’t necessarily buying a car, but have seen the potential in our company,” she adds. “However, we do also want to launch a more affordable model soon (with a price tag starting at 30,000 – ed), to facilitate the switch to solar energy among the general public.”
Sustainability has an important role to play in Lightyear One’s business model. When co-founder Lex Hoefsloot returned to the Netherlands after a childhood in Africa, he was struck by how little connection with nature we have here, and the extent of unnecessary CO2 emissions. Participation in the Solar Challenge strengthened his resolve to take matters into his own hands. “Lex is a textbook example of how we can use technology to tackle the climate crisis. He will do everything he can to make it work,” says Jet. “In fact, all our team here have this attitude. Anyone without that drive and motivation just doesn’t fit into the culture here. That’s why the first step of our hiring process is always a chat with Lex. That’s how we’re making a real difference.”
This mindset trickles down beyond the cars the company produces and into everything the company does: in particular, the suppliers they choose. “We did contact other suppliers with an emphasis on sustainability, but it was the circular approach that really tipped the balance for us. It goes that bit further than just using sustainable materials,” Jet tells us. “We are still a startup, of course, and we can’t make decisions without considering our budget very carefully. However, not everything is about the purchase price. We need to look at what we’re getting for our money. How long will the product last? Will we be able to take it with us if we relocate in future? These questions are more important to us than the actual euros and cents.”
Martijn Lammers, one of the co-founders of Lightyear One, met our own founder Chris Van de Voorde a few years back at the Climate-KIC – Europe’s biggest public-private innovation partnership focused on climate innovation. It was very soon clear that Lightyear One was searching for solutions for their rapidly expanding business. “I remember how Chris came over to help us think about how we could set up our office in line with circular thinking,” Jet tells us. “We realised early on that freestanding walls weren’t really what we were looking for, as our office layout was already fixed. What we felt our staff needed most was a place where they could hold online meetings in peace. After working from home so much, virtual meetings had become an important part of our culture. However, a big open-plan space obviously isn’t ideal for that kind of thing, and so JUUNOO’s Probox was the perfect solution for us.”
From Belgium to the Netherlands?
After the initial contact with Chris, the project progressed rapidly. Bart Claessens led the Lightyear One project and kept close track of each stage. “The contact with Bart was great. For example, the day before the installation, we confirmed everything again on the phone. I always got a quick answer to any questions or comments I had,” Jet says. “Even afterwards, when we thought we had a problem with the ventilation in our Proboxes, Bart immediately found a good solution.”
When we ask Jet about room for improvement, she immediately mentions the distance. “It is a shame that you have to make a special journey from Belgium to the Netherlands. A local presence would have been great for us. That way, you could get here more quickly when problems arise, like the ventilation issue,” she says. “But really, I would be delighted to work with you again in a future project” … and that next project is already in planning.
Happily, here at JUUNOO we don’t stay still for long – a new branch in the Netherlands is in the works for 2022! Lightyear One can look forward to a local installer for their next project. That’s not just better for communication: it’ll reduce our climate footprint too. Are you looking for a circular solution for your own office? Our specialists will be delighted to visit you for an initial meeting!