Audi is the latest car manufacturer to look into solar power to extend the range of electric or hybrid vehicles with solar power. Alta devices announced a new partnership with the luxury vehicle maker to develop automobiles with integrated high-efficiency solar cells and plan to have their fist prototype by the end of 2017.
In doing so, Audi joins the ranks of Toyota and Tesla. Toyota is integrating specially made solar panels from Panasonic into its newest line of Prius hybrid electric cars. Tesla, which already uses Panasonic solar panels for residential solar as well as Panasonic batteries in its line of cars, has also teased that the latest model could include a range extended solar panel.
“The range of electric cars plays a decisive role for our customers. Together with Alta Devices and Hanergy, we plan to install innovative solar technology in our electric cars that will extend their range and is also sustainable,” said Audi Board of Management Member for Procurement, Dr. Bernd Martens. So the power will be used directly to power the motor.
Panasonic’s panels are silicon-based whereas Alta Devices, a subsidiary of Hanergy Thin Film Power, is working to integrate thin-film solar panels into panoramic glass roofs of Audi models. Alta devices have reached world record efficiencies of 31.6 percent for a gallium arsenide thin-film cell. As such, the company is placed to create solar cells that can fit the shape of a car’s roof with more ease than conventional silicon cells.
"This partnership with Audi is Alta Devices first cooperation with a high-end auto brand. By combining Alta’s continuing breakthroughs in solar technology with Audi’s drive toward the future of the auto industry, we will define the solar car of the future,” said Dr. Jian Ding, SVP of Hanergy Thin Film Power Group Ltd., CEO of Alta Devices, Inc.
Looking ahead Audi’s electric vehicles could be charged—at least partially—by the solar array on their rooftops. “That would be a milestone along the way to achieving sustainable, emission-free mobility,” Martens said.
Currently, the electricity generated from the cells in the prototype will flow into the car’s electric system. It can supply energy for air-conditioning and seat heaters, for instance. An efficiency gain that will extend the range of Audi’s electric vehicles, Alta Devices stated.Tweet