The automaker has recently established a cooperation agreement with Chinese company Hanergy to develop solar cell roof technology – aiming to showcase a prototype by the end of the year.
Audi will first use the energy harvested from the solar cells to power the vehicle’s accessories systems such as air conditioning or seat heating/cooling functions. Afterwards, Audi wants to cover the entire roof in solar cells and move them towards delivering electricity to an EV’s or hybrid’s traction battery. “The range of electric cars plays a decisive role for our customers. Together with Hanergy, we plan to install innovative solar technology in our electric cars that will extend their range and is also sustainable,” commented Bernd Martens, Audi Board of Management Member for Procurement.
Audi isn’t the first automaker to explore solar cell usage for automobiles. As far back as 1992, Mazda was using them on the 929’s sunroof to deliver power to a fan that would cool the interior during scorching summer days. Nissan has refitted some Leaf models and the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid has them as an option in certain markets. Hanergy also has experience with automotive solar cells – an Aston Martin Vantage GTE got them back in 2014, for example.