Exciting times in the car industry “Going Solar”

With the announcement of it’s 2020 Sonata, Hyundai joins the ranks of new vehicles using solar PV technology. This new solar hybrid has claimed an approximate 800 miles (~1,300 km) per year added to it’s travel distance. That is assuming, of course, that you get the 6 hours of direct sun these figures were tested at. An announcement from Hyundai stated that the solar hybrid’s PV roof is meant to, “[recharge] the battery to increase travel distance while preventing unnecessary battery discharge.”

Specs for the Korean 2020 Sonata by Hyundai

Specifications listed here are for the Korean Market. May not be the same once it’s released in the States.


Solar Hybrid: The lightwave of the future?

The Karma Revero back in 2016, the Prius, and now the Sonata are all embracing the free and clean energy of the future. With these solar hybrid vehicles coming to the market, it would seem that this technology has the potential to help revolutionize the automotive industry. With companies like Miasolé setting new records in terms of efficiency in the flexible solar cell marketplace, there is opportunity. The problem that a lot of car companies have had in the past is two-fold: Efficiency and Aesthetics.

In the creation of solar as a technology, efficiency has always been the goal. Scientists in the 60’s figured out that there’s only so efficient we can be, and with flexible cells we’re about half-way to that maximum limit. There’s definitely room to improve, but we’re making strides all the time in the industry. Couple that with batteries that are able to store awesome amounts of energy and other systems like alternators and energy recovery systems and we now have a recipe for a truly revolutionary solar hybrid vehicle!

Where I truly feel we’ve crossed the last hurdle is with aesthetics. The car people can back me up on this one as well: Boxy, large, flat solar panels do not belong on vehicles where you care about aesthetics. If you’re into cars and not making a science fair project, this is most likely you. Now you can have it both ways: Curvy and collecting, sharp and shocking, elegant and electric!


Are we there yet?

In short? No. Is 800 miles a year added to your vehicle’s range worth spending the thousands of dollars this will likely cost as an upgrade? That is for you to decide, of course. Just note that in my non-hybrid Nissan Altima, 800 miles right now is about 70 dollars with current gas prices. If we’re talking a $2000 (completely random number) upgrade for the solar hybrid roof, that’s a repayment period that is WAY longer than I plan on keeping the car, 28.6 years. That being said, I am extremely excited to see where this tech goes!

The Lightyear One is a perfect example of leading-edge technology that is working to further tech in a sustainable way. By coming in at a price point that is not reasonable for the average car owner in America, the team at Lightyear can cram a full 5 meters-squared of solar panels onto the hood, roof, and trunk cover of their vehicle. If this sounds crazy to you, consider that the team behind Lightyear started as students who won the World Solar Challenge MULTIPLE TIMES with their completely solar vehicle.

We as a world-wide solar community are making moves in the right direction with the inroads into traditionally fossil-fuel-based markets. It’s only a matter of time until we have the ability to replace all of our energy needs with solar. That’s a future worth driving for!


As always, we appreciate you taking the time and if you have any questions about solar for your home, we can help!

Thanks to Hyundai, Lightyear, Jon Porter at TheVerge and Kristen Lee at Jalopnik.com for information about the Sonata and solar hybrids

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