Image: Hyundai Motor

Selected Hyundai and Kia vehicles will be offered next year with solar panels on their roof or hood: the solar charging will supplement electrical power in cars with hybrid, battery-electric and internal combustion engine (ICE) powertrains.

Three solar charging systems have been developed. The first-generation solar roof, for hybrid models, features silicon-cell photovoltaic panels mounted onto a conventional roof structure; depending upon weather conditions and environment, this can charge 30-60pc of the battery capacity each day.

For ICE vehicles, semi-transparent solar panels are applied to a larger panoramic sunroof; and for electric cars, the third system – currently still at the pilot study stage – combines roof-mounted and bonnet-mounted panels. No figures for the potential savings in fuel economy or carbon dioxide emissions have yet been released.

The Hyundai-Kia technology uses a controller with maximum power point tracking (MPPT) to manage voltage and current, transforming the generated electricity to the standard voltage. The electricity is either stored in the battery or directly diverted to decrease the load on the car’s AC generator.

Jeong-Gil Park, executive vice present of the engineering design division, Hyundai Motor Group, pointed out in a statement: “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.”