Hyundai & Kia to Offer ‘Solar Roof' Charging on Select Vehicles

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【Summary】Kia Motors and Hyundai have announced plans to introduce ‘solar roof’ charging technology on selected Hyundai Motor Group vehicles. The automakers will embed electricity-generating solar panels into the roof or hood of its vehicles.

FutureCar Staff    Dec 07, 2018 4:18 PM PT
Hyundai & Kia to Offer ‘Solar Roof' Charging on Select Vehicles

Kia Motors and Hyundai Motor are tapping into the power of the sun. The automakers have announced plans to introduce ‘solar roof' charging technology on selected Hyundai Motor Group vehicles. The automakers will embed electricity-generating solar panels into the roof or hood of its vehicles. The solar charging is designed to supply internal-combustion, hybrid and battery-electric vehicles with additional electrical power to extend range.

The solar charging technology is being developed to support the vehicle's main power source—the battery pack. The system will have the capability to charge the batteries of plug-in hybrid and fully-electric and internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.

Hyundai Motor Group is developing three types of solar roof charging systems.

The first-generation system is designed specifically for hybrid vehicles, while the second-generation technology uses a semi-transparent solar roof system to a vehicle with a internal-combustion engine. The third generation of the technology consists of a lightweight solar roof for battery electric vehicles.

The first-generation system for hybrid models is created out of a structure of silicon solar panels that are integrated into a standard car roof. This system is capable of charging 30 to 60 percent of the battery over the course of a normal day. The rate of charge is based on environmental factors and level of sunlight.

The second-generation semi-transparent solar roof will be applied to gas-powered vehicles, representing a world-first application for the technology. The semi-transparent technologies can be integrated with a panoramic sunroof, letting light into the cabin while charging the vehicle's battery at the same time. Applying solar charging systems to ICE vehicles will help them comply with ever more stringent global environmental laws regulating CO2 emissions.

The third-generation system, is currently in testing. It is designed to be applied to the hood and roof of eco-friendly battery electric vehicle models in order to maximize energy output.


A technician testing components of a solar roof.

How it works

The solar charging system consists of a solar panel, a controller and a battery. As the panel absorbs photons of light from the sunlight, it creates electron-hole pairs in silicon cells, enabling current to flow, which generates electricity.

When a 100W solar panel is equipped, it can produce up to 100 Wh of energy when the vehicle is exposed to full sunlight. The controller features Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT), 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 utilized to decrease load on the vehicle's alternating current (AC) generator, thereby increasing vehicle range.

"In the future, we expect to see many different types of electricity-generating technologies  integrated into our vehicles. 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," said the developer of the technology Jeong-Gil Park, Executive Vice President of the Engineering and Design Division of Hyundai Motor Group. "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."

The first generation ‘solar roof' system will be introduced to Hyundai Motor Group vehicles from 2019, including future cars from Kia to help meet global regulations targets and improve vehicle fuel efficiency.

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