In 2017, Audi is one of the most cutting-edge brands in the EV space – and now it wants to push its technology even further. In an announcement yesterday, Audi announced it will be working to put solar panels on its electric cars – and it could make EVs even better for the environment.
Audi is working with Alta Devices – a subsidiary of the Chinese company Hanergy – to integrate super-thin solar cells into panoramic glass roofs. After that, they’ll work on integrating these solar panels into the entire roof of the car, increasing the amount of energy generated. Both companies say they will have completed a joint prototype of the solar-powered panoramic roof later this year – with more advanced designs covering the entire roof arriving after that.
The solar cells that will be used are more than 25% efficient, and they’re also very thin and flexible – ideal for the curves of car bodywork. What’s more, Audi says the cells are particularly good in low light and high temperatures, which means they’ll be suited to their new environment.
So, does this mean we won’t need to charge our electric cars at all? In a word, no. For the area covered, solar-panel technology currently generates nowhere near the amount of electricity needed to power an EV for a conventional journey. Instead, Audi and Hanergy now see it as a way to give the car a little extra juice – for heated seats or the air conditioning, for example – and therefore eke out extra range. The electricity that the solar panels generate won’t actually be used to charge the battery itself.
However, if and when solar cells become more efficient, Audi will look to increase the role they can play. In the future, Audi engineers think that solar energy could be used to directly charge the battery.
Dr Ding Jian, the senior vice president of Hanergy, CEO of Alta Devices and leader of the project, said: “This partnership with Audi is Alta Devices’ first co-operation with a high-end auto brand. By combining Alta’s continuing breakthroughs in solar technology and Audi’s drive toward a sustainable mobility of the future, we will shape the solar car of the future.”