Kia Motors and Hyundai Motor Group have announced plans to introduce solar charging technology on top of select vehicles.
Electricity-generating solar panels will be incorporated into the roof or the hood of vehicles to support them with additional power.
The solar is being developed to support the vehicle’s main power source, improving mileage and, in turn, reducing CO2 emissions. The system will have the capability to charge the batteries of electric and hybrid vehicles, as well as those of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, helping to improve fuel efficiency.
Hyundai Motor Group is developing three types of systems: The first-generation system is for hybrid vehicles, while the second-generation technology brings a semi-transparent solar roof system to ICE vehicles. The third generation of the technology will see the introduction of a lightweight solar roof for battery electric vehicles.
The first-generation system is created out of a structure of silicon solar panels that are integrated into a standard car roof. This system will be capable of charging 30% to 60% of the battery over the course of a normal day, depending on weather conditions and other environmental factors.
The second-generation system can be integrated with a panoramic sunroof, letting light through into the cabin while charging the vehicle’s battery at the same time. Applying solar charging systems to ICE vehicles can help them comply with more stringent global environmental laws regulating CO2 emissions, Hyundai points out.
The third-generation system is currently in testing. It is designed to be applied to the hood and roof of battery electric vehicles in order to maximize energy output.
The technology comprises a solar panel, controller and battery. The controller features maximum power point tracking, which controls voltage and current to increase the efficiency of electricity harvested by the solar panel. This power is converted and stored in the battery or used to decrease load on the vehicle’s alternating current generator, thereby increasing vehicle range.
“In the future, we expect to see many different types of electricity-generating technologies integrated into our vehicles,” says Jeong-Gil Park, executive vice president of the engineering and design division of Hyundai Motor Group. “The solar roof is the first of these technologies and will mean that automobiles no longer passively consume energy but will begin to produce it actively. It is an exciting development for us, designing a technology for vehicle owners to help them shift from being energy users to being energy producers.”
Hyundai Motor Group plans to launch the first generation of this technology into its vehicles after 2019.