Solar roof technology is already being pitched on the market as a viable way to charge your electric vehicle (EV).
As the world transitions from internal combustion engines, manufacturers are looking at further energy efficient ways to charge plug-in EV’s while on the move.
So should EV owners be rushing to purchase a solar roof add-on? The short answer is no, at least in the next few years anyway.
The solar roof on the Toyota Prius, as designed by Panasonic, is so far only capable of generating enough electricity for a measly 3-5km/day. Future groups have set their targets at reaching 10-30km/day through the use of lightweight 4 seater electric vehicles, but much more research is required to reach that stage.
More concerningly, the economics of such an investment just doesn’t stack up at this point in time. According to Renew Economy, a 200W roof can generate about 300 kilowatt hours (kWh) per year.
If charging were to cost 40 cents per kWh over the payback period, consumers are only looking at around one hundred dollars a year in avoided charging cost. If the upfront cost of the roof was $500, drivers wouldn’t be likely to see any return on investment until after 5 years of use at a minimum.
That’s not to suggest that things will always be this way however. Electric vehicles, while currently too expensive for the average consumer are on track to reach parity with the cost of a conventional vehicle within the next decade or so.
Likewise the technology of solar roofs will also increase, as manufacturers seek to reduce overall car weights, improve aerodynamics and increase solar capacity.
Just within the last week, the 30th Bridgestone World Solar Challenge saw 12 vehicles successfully complete a 3021km solar-powered journey from Darwin to Adelaide. The winning Nuon Solar Team averaged a speed of 81.2km/h across the journey, claiming their seventh title in the Challenger class.
The technology of solar roofs and vehicles is definitely coming, but it will require a lot of work over the next few decades to make the economics and practicalities stack up for the average driver.
In the meantime, it might be better for drivers to consider solar panels for your home, rather than for their car.
More information about solar roof technology can be found here.