Are Solar Car Roofs the Future of Hybrid Tech? What Students in Hybrid Vehicles Training Programs Should Know
July 26, 2017
The race to get more and better eco-friendly cars to market is on, and now Panasonic is preparing to introduce an interesting new technology into this competition: solar roofs. By integrating solar cells into the roofs of regular, mass-produced cars, the company is looking to use one of the hottest technologies in the world to further reduce reliance on fossil fuels and usher in an era of greener driving.
Curious about how and if this arrangement will work? Here’s a look at the developing story of cars with solar roofs.
Students in Hybrid Vehicles Training Programs Can See the Panels Hook Right Into Hybrid Systems
The concept behind solar roofs for cars is nearly as simple as it sounds. Solar cells are integrated into a glass roof and hook into the battery system for the car. This can help cars charge their batteries when they drive on sunny days, extending drive distance. There are, however, some extra innovations in the way the panels connect with each other, and with the car, which have helped to improve the amount of charge that can be generated.
Currently, Panasonic’s technology is only being used by some Toyota Prius Prime vehicles in Japan, though other companies, like Tesla, have also indicated that they may be interested in exploring this sort of technology themselves. Professionals entering careers in the auto industry could see a few more models pop up with this tech in the next few years.
After Your Automotive Technology Program You May See Solar Roofs Provide Little Benefit
The idea behind solar roof integration is to make use of energy from the sun to feed a hybrid or electric car’s battery with some power. While the technology does indeed work—cars with a solar roof will see their batteries charge from the sun’s rays—the actual amount of charging that occurs makes the value of buying a solar roof questionable. Drivers will enjoy as little as 2.5-6 km of added driving distance by getting the solar roof add-on, which means the expense won’t do much for people who drive even moderate distances.
Expanding on this concept by devoting more of a car’s exterior to solar cells could improve this result a bit, but might not be enough to make much of an impact for most drivers. If, after your hybrid vehicles training program, you’re asked by clients whether you think a solar roof is a worthwhile add-on, it’s possible that the costs of adding one might outweigh any potential benefits.
Safety Regulations Are Keeping Solar Roofs Out of North America (For Now)
Engineering solar roofs for cars involved overcoming a number of difficulties. These include the fact that the panels would constantly be vibrating as outfitted cars drive, and the fact that clouds, tunnels, and a variety of other interfering objects would frequently hide the cells, which reduces cell effectiveness.
Though these have been handled fairly well, regional differences in safety standards have made Panasonic and Toyota’s solar roof technology non-viable in the North American market. Specifically, the roof is too fragile to pass rollover safety standards in North America, meaning the technology won’t be deployed here until there is further development to improve the durability of these roofs.
Though it might not take longer than a couple of years for the improvements to be made, it does mean that eager hybrid technology aficionados could have to wait a while before getting their hands on a car with a solar roof.
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