Two Dutch companies Lightyear and Royal DSM, are collaborating to integrate solar-powered roofs to electric vehicles, including cars, vans, and buses. Lightyear has a mission to design and manufacture electric vehicles with a long-range around 725 kilometers and more significantly charged by the sun. 

According to DSM, “Today, the global EV market has enormous growth potential. It was valued at $160-plus billion in 2019; and is projected to reach $800-plus billion by 2027 according to international market assessments from Bloomberg, IDTechEx, and TIME. To accelerate this growth, the EV industry now needs to overcome the twin hurdles of limited range and grid-dependency.”

The benefits of integrating solar panels on the roof of an electric vehicle is very encouraging. A roof-mounted solar panel concept for electric vehicles such as being introduced by Lightyear and DSM has merits that include:

  1. The electric vehicle is charged during the day with electricity derived from the sun. The electric vehicle is charged whether it is parked in the workplace, at home, or whether it is driven on the road. 
  2. The cost of an electric vehicle roof is offset by replacing it with a solar roof. The solar panels effectively take the space of the roof of the electric vehicle so that the total costs of the solar panel component and integration is minimised.
  3. Instances where the battery onboard the electric vehicle is fully charged, the excess electricity is fed into the electricity grid or used locally for example in building premises. 
  4. Compared to business models utilised in solar and battery storage in buildings, electric vehicles embedded with solar panels pose an opportunity for electric vehicle owners to have reduced energy demand required to charge the electric vehicle. Thus, the electric vehicle does not depend entirely on energy from the national grid but can also utilise the electricity generated from the solar panels on the roof of the electric vehicle. 

Ebbah EV continues to follow Lightyear’s example to review the opportunities for improving the business model of electric vehicles embedded with solar roofs. Shading considerations will be essential for vehicles equipped with solar roofs, to maximise capturing sunlight. IM Efficiency is another company that is working to integrate solar roofs on vehicles.

Globally, other vehicle manufacturers will undoubtedly follow suit, as further details about the solar roof design emerge over the coming years. 

It is encouraging to see practical showcasing of the technical feasibility of solar-powered roofs to electric vehicles. Looking at the maturity of solar photovoltaics, embedding solar roofs in electric vehicles is long overdue.