Thin-film solar cells will be integrated into a panoramic glass roof by Alta Devices, a subsidiary of Chinese Firm Hanergy. The first prototype is due for completion by the end of 2017.

“The range of electric cars plays a decisive role for our customers,” said Audi board of management member for procurement Dr. Bernd Martens. “Together with Hanergy, we plan to install innovative solar technology in our electric cars that will extend their range and is also sustainable.”

Audi is aiming for almost the entire roof surface to be covered with solar cells in the future, with the generated electricity used to supply a vehicle’s air-conditioning system and seat heaters. The solar energy has the potential to directly charge the traction battery, according to Audi, which would help the carmaker on its pathway to achieve “sustainable, emission-free mobility”.

Commenting on the announcement, Alta Devices chief executive Dr. Ding Jian said:  “This partnership with Audi is Alta Devices’ first cooperation 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”.

Innovation drive

This is the latest in a line of technological innovations released by Audi. Last year, the carmaker announced it was working on a new damper prototype that will convert kinetic energy from driving over potholes and bumps in the road into electricity.

Audi has also developed traffic light technology that could potentially cut CO2 emissions by 15%. The traffic light sends information via the ‘in car-internet’, displaying a countdown to the next green light and interacts with the engines ‘start-stop’ function, ensuring engines are switched on five seconds before the green phase.

Audi is not the only major car manufacturer to develop solar roof technology for its EV range. Late last year, Tesla’s chief executive Elon Musk revealed that the company’s own solar roof panel products would feature in some form on the recently launched Model 3.

George Ogleby  

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