Four models of solar-powered vehicles in the works at Hanergy thin-film solar; sales planned before the decade is out

 China’s Hanergy Holding Group (Hanergy) has unveiled four solar-powered electric concept cars, set for production within three years. Hanergy is a large clean-energy company and one of the largest thin-film solar cell manufacturers in the world. Hanergy is also the owner of U.S. based Alta Devices, which it bought in 2014.

Hanergy Solar 0. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Much of the technology used in the solar panels that cover the Hanergy cars is based on Alta Devices AnyLight, which was devised as a range-extending technology for electric vehicles.

Hanergy is planning to use this technology to build fully-solar powered cars in the future. The company says the current solar energy conversion rate of its high-end cells is 31.6%. This is expected to go up to 38% in 2020 and 42% in 2025, which would make a fully-solar powered car possible, according to the company.

 Hanergy Solar A. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

The four Hanergy vehicles are basically standard electric cars with solar power functioning as an extra source to extend range, like the original Alta Devices concept. The vehicles store energy in lithium ion batteries and can be charged at any charging station.

However, Hanergy has added three crucial new inventions to the technology. Firstly, the vehicles are able to drive on solar power alone. The Hanergy Solar A has a combined range (battery + solar panel) of 350 kilometer and a solar-only range of 80 kilometer.

Secondly, the solar panels can be used to power different motors. The Hanergy Solar R has solar panels on the hood and on the roof. The former are being used to power an electric motor on the front axle, whereas the latter powers a motor on the rear axle.

Thirdly, and most interesting, the surface of the solar panels can be extended when the vehicle is stopped to allow for faster charging. There are two ways this can be done: by temporarily using the windows as extra panels or by folding out the roof-based solar panels, in true space-station style. In this way the panels of the Hanergy Solar A can be extended to 7.5 square meters, allowing a full solar charge in six hours.

 Hanergy Solar R. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Hanergy also announced a cooperation agreement with Foton Motors to build solar panels for Foton’s new-energy buses, where the panels will work as a range extender. The company furthermore says it has agreements with various Chinese specialty-vehicle manufacturers to add solar power to the likes of recreational vehicles, tour buses, and catering trucks.

All in all a very interesting technology with real-world applications and a promise of fully solar powered passenger cars in the future.

By Tycho deFeijter / Source: Forbes