• Solar Plus Storage
  • Zero-Emissions Vehicles
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Solar plus Storage on Everything Is Getting Closer

Roberto Rodriguez Labastida
Jul 05, 2019


The combination of solar plus storage has gained momentum over the last few years. Two startups, Sono Motors in Munich, Germany, and Lightyear in Eindhoven, the Netherlands have revealed their prototypes (Sono’s Sion and the Lightyear One) and are offering test drives to prospective customers. Sono plans to deliver its cars to their first owners in the second half of 2020. Lightyear is a couple of years behind; it plans to deliver its Lightyear One in 2021.

While these projects are the most ambitious, other cars manufacturers are also tinkering with the idea of solar plus storage. Toyota offers a solar roof for its Prius in Japan. Recently, Kia and Hyundai announced they will offer solar roofs in 2019 for some of their hybrid vehicles, which promise to charge between 30% and 60% of their 1.5 kWh batteries. They also plan to implement solar in internal combustion engines and full EVs in the future—to charge the traditional 12V battery for their EVs and to take some loads from the battery in the EV.

LG released two solar car roofs at Intersolar Europe 2019. The solar car roof variants on display featured either Neon 2 CELLO cells rated at 200 W or Neon R IBC cells rating at 300 W. 

Solar plus Storage in Vehicles Can Solve Simple Problems

My favorite solar plus storage vehicle was unveiled last week—a solar plus storage ice cream van. Some backstory: the fight against polluting diesel engines in Europe has accelerated since the dieselgate scandal hit Volkswagen in September 2015. The UK has been tackling its diesel engine fleet particularly hard. The Mayor of London banned new diesel black cabs in 2018 and is incentivizing the rollout of new plug-in hybrid EVs. 

Unfortunately, a victim in the fight against diesel is the traditional ice cream van. Last May, several UK councils banned the operation of ice cream vans over concerns about air pollution. Ice cream vans are an especially polluting case as drivers need to keep their engines switched on while selling ice cream so their onboard freezers stay cold and so they can power soft serve ice cream machines. The vans also usually operate close to children, causing extra concerns about the effects of pollution.

Thankfully, Nissan and Mackie’s, the Scottish ice cream maker, have acted quickly and unveiled a zero-emissions ice cream van concept, adding a solar roof to their e-NV200 electric van that would tackle the air quality concerns that the ice cream van ban is aiming at. This project shows how simple it can be to integrate the technology if the market demands it, as it relies on off-the-shelf technology.

While the solar car/van trend is at an early stage, it can quickly catch momentum once initial market testings are done and some economies of scale are achieved. Solar manufacturers could help develop this trend if they contribute solutions that vehicle OEMs can use as close to off-the shelf equipment, as they do for other parts of their cars. At the same time, OEMs should ensure they understand the main solar trends and consider how they can implement it to bring the most value to customers—anything from fuel replacement to comfort or security and safety.