The Korean carmaker, Hyundai has released a version of its Sonata hybrid that has solar panels on its roof to help charge its battery. The panel could charge up to 60% of the car’s battery if the solar roof was used for six hours a day while driving the car. The latest addition could increase a driver’s yearly travel distance by 1,300 kilometres.
Fitting hybrids with panels that can harvest solar energy would boost fuel efficiency and lower carbon dioxide emissions said Hyundai. It added that the mid-sized passenger car had an improved engine control system to ensure energy use was as efficient as possible.
The company is also planning to offer the roof as an optional extra on other models in its range. The solar-roof equipped Sonata will be on sale in North America and Korea. Hyundai said it had no plans to sell it in other regions.
In terms of components, the system is made up of a solar panel and a controller. The electricity is produced when solar energy activates the solar panel’s surface, which converts this energy by using photons of light from the sun. This creates the electron-hole pairs in silicon cells, which generate solar electricity. The produced electricity is then converted to the standard voltage by the controller and then stored in the battery. Hyundai believes that, while the solar roof system currently plays a supporting role, it opens up possibilities for vehicles that no longer need fossil fuel to operate and can perennially run on solar charging.
Hyundai is working on a second-generation solar roof that would be semi-transparent to help light the car’s cabin.
Hyundai is not the first car manufacturer to use solar panels on a vehicle. The sun-powered charging systems are available as an option on the Toyota Prius, and the luxury Karma Revero is also available with one. It’s a way to help power electric cars and increase driving distances between charges. Other electric and hybrid vehicles need to be attached to electrical outlets to recharge their batteries. Charging times differ widely depending on the vehicle and the kind of electrical equipment used.
Moreover, Toyota says its system being tested is designed to charge the vehicle’s battery whether the car is parked or driving. Manufacturers have long sought to increase the distance a car can drive before requiring a battery charge.
Also, Dutch start-up Lightyear is working on an electric car that uses solar panels on its bonnet and roof to help charge the vehicle’s batteries.
Climate Change is real, imminent and the irreversible effects are much near than expected. Mitigating Climate Change impact is an extraordinary task and will take extraordinary measures. A car with the solar roof might seem a simple and small change but indeed a welcomed one. It will further add to the appeal and acceptability of electric cars in the market.