The idea of owning a car that can run entirely on solar power is pretty cool. Unfortunately, like flying cars, solar-powered cars are unlikely to happen anytime soon. But future Audis may take a step in that direction by charging their batteries with their sunroofs.
Audi announced this week that it’s teamed up with Alta Devices, a subsidiary of the Chinese solar company Hanergy, to put thin-film solar cells in glass roofs. The idea is to generate solar energy that helps extend the range of an electric vehicle. Eventually, Audi sees EVs with roofs almost entirely covered in solar cells, using the electricity they generate to power features like air conditioning or seat heaters. One day, the solar roof may even be able to directly charge the battery.
“The range of electric cars plays a decisive role for our customers,” said Dr. Bernd Martens, Audi Board of Management Member for Procurement, in a release. “Together with Hanergy, we plan to install innovative solar technology in our electric cars that will extend their range and is also sustainable.”
But while Audi says the solar cells are remarkably efficient and perform well in low light, it didn’t say how much electricity these solar sunroofs will potentially be able to generate or how much sunlight will be required to run something like the air conditioning. Toyota and Karma both offer solar roof options, but neither one is able to produce enough power on any given day to be much more than a novelty.
If Audi actually does put a solar roof on one of its upcoming EVs, it’s unlikely that it will be much different. Even if it’s mostly a novelty, a solar roof is still pretty cool, though.