Soumac WOW blog – Hyundai’s latest hybrid uses a solar roof to help recharge its battery pack

In the latest technological developments for cars, manufacturers are looking to solar panels to charge their battery-powered vehicles. Hyundai unveiled their Sonata model last week, complete with a solar panel roof that could provide up to 60% of its power.

So how does the technology work and what advantages does it offer? Soumac explores the latest development in our WOW blog:

Under the hood, the Sonata’s gasoline engine has been paired with an electric engine. Energy from the vehicle is then recouped through a generator and stored in batteries which power the motor. However, where this model differs to its other hybrid counterparts is that the batteries are recharged using a combination of both solar power and its electric motor – as opposed to relying on petrol or diesel and electricity from a motor. Hyundai claims that the solar panels could charge 30 to 60 percent of the battery per day; equating to 2.2 extra miles a day or 803 annually.

The solar roof isn’t the only thing which sets this hybrid apart from the others. Hyundai also debuted their ASC feature in the Sonata – meaning Activated Shift Control – which aligns the rotational speeds of the engine and transmission; resulting in a reduction of gear shift times of 30% to increase durability and boost fuel economy.

Advantages of using solar energy in the automotive industry

The obvious advantage of Sonata’s solar roof is its use of renewable energy sources, and fortunately, the sun’s energy shows no signs of running out anytime soon. As a result, Sonata drivers won’t need to use as much petrol/diesel, which will help reduce fuel bills and CO2 emissions.

What’s more, the solar roof can charge both while the car is stationary and while driving – meaning drivers don’t have to worry about sitting around for 6 hours a day while it charges.

Finally, there is no noise associated with solar power; which compares favourably to other renewable energy sources.

Challenges of solar power in the automotive industry

However, don’t expect this car to be an affordable option. While no official figures have been released yet, adding solar cells to a car adds weight and material costs, which is likely to hike up the commercial price quite significantly. What’s more, the long-term advantages of owning a solar-powered car are yet to be proven, so their real life applications are not yet known. Furthermore, the cells need to be positioned to absorb maximum sunlight, and that may not always be possible.

Lastly, although pollution related to solar energy systems is far less compared to other sources of energy, critics have pointed out that the manufacturing process of solar panels can be linked to the emission of greenhouse gases. Nevertheless, solar energy pollutes far less than other alternative energy sources.

In conclusion, this is certainly an exciting development for the automotive industry and Hyundai aren’t the first to experiment with solar energy. Sun-powered charging systems are also being explored by Toyota and Karma Revero – suggesting that a future with solar-powered cars is a real possibility. However, if they are to take off, manufacturers will have to find a way to bring down the costs if they want consumers to favour these models over others.

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