We’re not sure if Audi was directly inspired by the Sion announcement from Sono Motors back in July, but the German car manufacturer have just revealed that it too will be using solar panels to help power one of its future electric vehicles.
Partnering with Alta Devices, a subsidiary of Chinese solar cell firm Hanergy, Audi is developing a panoramic glass roof of solar panels that will provide power for non-essential car systems, such as seat heaters and air conditioning. By utilizing an alternative source of energy for these systems, it will free up the main electric power systems, which will result in an increased range for the vehicle.
For Audi, range is of key importance, as it explained in a statement from Audi Board of Management Member for Procurement Dr. Bernd Martens. “The range of electric cars plays a decisive role for our customers. Together with Alta Devices and Hanergy, we plan to install innovative solar technology in our electric cars that will extend their range and is also sustainable.”
What’s the cost of that extra range? Is it better than putting in more batteries and powering the car with home solar energy? Audi didn’t say.
First Prototype Ready by End of 2017
In time, it is planned that the solar cells will be incorporated to cover the entire roof of the car to create as much energy as practically possible. The ultimate goal is to be able to harness enough solar energy to directly charge the traction battery of the vehicle, which would be a breakthrough for Dr. Bernd Martens. “That would be a milestone along the way to achieving sustainable, emission-free mobility,” he stated.
The first prototype of the vehicle will be ready by the end of 2017. As yet, there’s no indication of when it would enter mass production, but Audi has stated that it wants to have three fully electric vehicles on the market by 2020, and to have a third of all its vehicles covered with fully or partially electric drivetrains by 2025.
This move towards solar coupled with its foray into Formula E further displays Audi’s commitment to electric vehicles as the future of the automotive industry. When the future arrives is the remaining question.