Paper-thin panels that mold to a surface are critical for solar power to power devices in non-traditional places. Some of those unusual places could be the rooftop or spoilers of a next-generation vehicle, according to Ben Lenail, Director of Business Development, for solar panel manufacturer, Alta Devices, a Hanergy Company.
From an application standpoint, the lightweight, flexible and robust nature of their thin-film solar cells are finding use in drones and airships at both low and high-altitudes, energy harvesting for low-power, Internet of Thing devices and wearables and in various applications in vehicles.
Lenail doesn’t expect these will be the primary power source for an electric vehicle but does believe they will be useful to provide a trickle charge to compensate for the increase in electronics due to the integration of autonomous features, such as Lidar. According to Lenail, the robust nature of their product, along with its flexible and thin profile, will allow integration into the vehicle without impacting the design.
A glimpse of the solar vehicle future was seen this week in Australia, as the biannual Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. Hyper-efficient solar vehicles of various classes competed to make the 3,000 km journey from Darwin to Adelaide as efficiently and fast as possible. And, Alta Devices was there, powering the Stanford University Solar Car and providing a vision for how solar might integrate into the car of the future.*
*Unfortunately, the Stanford car suffered a battery fire, so it couldn’t finish the race.
00:41 – Lenail talks about their more common applications where their product goes today, particularly applications where low weight is necessary like drones.
01:07 – The unique properties and advantages of GaAs are discussed
02:15 – Airships as a cell tower? Yes, with motors to keep them in place, Lenail indicates there are many players looking at using lighter-than-air vehicles as virtual cell towers.
03:13 – Practical applications of solar panels within vehicles are given.
04:18 – If they are going to be in automotive, they are going to have to be durable. Just look at the cracked windshield in the video from a rock on a rural road.
04:51 – From a dollar per watt perspective, can it pay for itself?
05:27 – What sort of battery range extension might be possible using this technology?
06:10 – Does the 29% efficiency make up for the fact that you might not be positioned properly or are under trees?
07:06 – What about scaling production?