Financial and environmental reasons have long made the prospect of adding solar panels to cars intriguing, but it could soon be a reality.
The first few minutes inside a car that has been sitting out in the sun on a hot day can feel like you’re trapped in an oven, frantically winding down windows and cranking the AC to achieve a survivable temperature for the drive.
Well, what if that solar energy could be converted to help power your car? This has been a dream of car manufacturers and environmentalists — not to mention commuters looking to save on fuel costs — for decades and now Hyundai and Kia are looking to roll out three generations of solar panel systems for cars, with the first arriving sometime in 2019.
Three Solar Charging Systems
The first-generation systems will only be available on hybrid cars. According to a Hyundai and Kia press release, “a structure of mass-produced silicon solar panels” that are mounted on a car’s roof. The system will be able to charge a battery between 30 and 60 percent per day.
The second-generation solar charging system will be applicable to both electric vehicles and vehicles with standard internal combustible engines. It will be the first in the world to power a combustible engine and features “semi-transparent solar panels” that can be applied to a sunroof without completely obscuring the view. It will power the battery of an electric vehicle or an additional battery that can be mounted on a traditional engine.
The third-generation systems will feature solar panels on the roof and hood in order to maximize the amount of energy produced. This will make significant improvements to the amount of solar energy that can be used to power the car.
What It Means
Charging 30 to 60 percent of a battery per day wouldn’t be enough to power long road trips but it does significantly reduce the amount of fuel hybrid or combustible engines use, as well as charging time for electric vehicles. If the technology proves to be effective it could be a great way to improve fuel economy, especially as it catches on and is employed by other auto manufacturers.
Jeong-Gil Park, Executive Vice President of Engineering Design Division of Hyundai Motor Group explains his lofty goals for the tech he developed: “In the future, various types of electricity-generating technologies, including the solar charging system, will be connected to vehicles. This will enable them to develop from a passive device that consumes energy to a solution that actively generates energy. The paradigm of the vehicle owner will shift from that of a consumer to an energy prosumer.”