Aston Martin revs up solar-powered car commitment

Solar giant Hanergy has renewed a research collaboration with Aston Martin in a bid to develop the world's first solar-powered car for the general public.

The partnership, originally announced in June last year, will continue to develop the capabilities of the thin-film solar panels affixed to an Aston Martin GTE racing-car roof (pictured).

The project will help Aston Martin maximise the performance of its racing cars and help Hanergy develop the technology for a consumer car market.

In the GTE car, solar modules are used to charge the main battery which powers a number of functions inside the car, including the air conditioning system.

Technology advances

Since last year, this collaboration has resulted in several improvements which include durability in all weather conditions and resistance to the vibrations when the car is moving at high speeds.

Hanergy’s vice president Jason Chow said that the panel’s efficiency could be improved further. “Theoretically we can get 300W which is an increase of 300% on the current output,” Chow said. “These are still early days for us, and our work for the following year will focus on maximising power output from panels that can fit a typically sized car roof, roughly one metre squared.”


Once the power output is increased, Hanergy wants to expand its project to a wider range of car models. “We are starting with luxury and high performance cars like the Aston Martin GTE to test our limits and understand performance at high speeds,” added Chow.

“As we develop our technology further, we plan to adapt our panels to electric, hybrid and petrol and diesel powered cars accessible to the public.”

Solar energy used in cars has a range of applications. For example, a car parked in the sun can utilise its panels to run the AC system, minimising engine and battery use.

Solar future

The deal is part of Aton Martin’s growing commitment to low-emission vehicles. Last week, the British manufacturer revealed at the New York Auto Show that it’s working on both a plug-in and an electric vehicle.

The concept of using racing cars as a test-bed for new technologies was one of the founding principles of the Formula E race series, while the idea of purely solar-powered vehicles is creeping into the public consciousness all the time, as the Solar Impulse plane continues its epic round-the-world journey. 

The market for clean-energy vehicles is also on the up, as evidenced by the 320,000 new electric cars registered around the world last year. 

Brad Allen

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