German premium carmaker Audi and Alta Devices, a subsidiary of Chinese solar cell specialist, Hanergy, have joined forces in a project that will attempt to use thin-film solar cells in the panoramic glass roofs of Audi models.
The electricity these cells generate will flow into the car’s electrical system and could, for example, supply the vehicle’s air-conditioning system or the seat heaters – a gain in efficiency that can increase the range of an electric vehicle.
The first prototype featuring an integrated prototype solar roof solution was to be built by the end of 2017, the companies said in a statement released this month.
As the first step, Audi and Hanergy aim to integrate Alta Devices’ thin-film solar cells into an Audi’s panoramic glass roof. The future vision is that almost the entire roof surface will be covered with solar cells.
“The range of electric cars plays a decisive role for our customers,” said Audi procurement management board member Dr Bernd Martens.
“Together with Hanergy, we plan to install innovative solar technology in our electric cars that will extend their range and that is also sustainable.”
At a later stage, solar energy could directly charge the traction battery.
“That would be a milestone along the way to achieving sustainable, emission-free mobility – green electricity generated by innovative solar cells,” said Martens.
He said the solar cells had an efficiency of more than 25%, and that they were “very thin and flexible”.
“Furthermore, they perform very well also in conditions of low light and high temperature.”
The solar cells are produced by Alta Devices in California, in the US.
“This partnership with Audi is Alta Devices’ first cooperation with a high-end auto brand,” added Dr Ding Jian, senior VP of Hanergy Thin Film Power Group, CEO of Alta Devices, and coleader of the Audi-Hanergy Thin Film Solar Cell Research and Development Project.
“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.”