The idea of a solar-powered car has been floating around for years, with many little-known companies promising to bring the concept to life. But now it may finally happen. Audi recently announced that it’s working on a solar-powered vehicle prototype that they expect to complete by the end of 2017.
Audi has teamed up with Alta Devices, a division of the Chinese solar-cell specialist, Hanergy, to develop thin-film solar cells that can be integrated into a panoramic glass roof. The solar cells would then power the vehicle’s electrical systems, like the air-conditioning system or seat heaters, which would improve the range of an electric vehicle. The idea of solar-powered accessories isn’t entirely new: both Toyota and Nissan have also used the technology.
The bigger news is that the two companies hope to improve the technology, so that the solar energy could directly charge an electric car’s battery. Audi hasn’t given a timetable for that capability, but the new solar cells have an efficiency of more than 25 percent. Audi also says the solar cells, which will be produced in California by Alta Devices, perform well in low light and high temperature conditions.
“The range of electric cars plays a decisive role for our customers. Together with Hanergy, we plan to install innovative solar technology in our electric cars that will extend their range and is also sustainable,” stated Audi Board of Management Member for Procurement Dr. Bernd Martens.