Irish energy technology company SolarPrint has entered into a partnership with Italian car manufacturing giant Fiat to develop solar panels that can be incorporated into the roof surface of automotives, as a means of generating alternative sources of energy for vehicles by converting light to power.
Under the terms of the deal, SolarPrint is a key part of an international consortium that has begun working with the Centro Richerche Fiat (CRF) – the innovation and research arm of the car manufacturer – on the development of what is described as a ‘smart roof’. The new ‘smart roof’ will incorporate low cost photo voltaic (PV) – or solar – cells and lithium batteries that will in turn be used to power on board devices in cars.
€3 Million Project
The consortium working on the Eur3 million project, which has been titled the ‘SMARTOP’ initiative, also includes scientists from University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin and Imperial College in the UK. Other partners in the group include German semi-conductor company, Infineon Technologies, and auto components supplier, Webasto Product.
“The SMARTOP project has been set up to create a technology that will revolutionise the auto industry and the cars that we drive, by converting everyday light into a form of power. Simply put, in the not too distant future, cars will be partially powered by PV technologies, which will have significant knock on benefits for consumers, manufacturers and society as a whole,” says Dr Mazhar Bari, chief executive of SolarPrint.
The smart sun roofs that will eventually be installed in cars offer a number of important advantages, in terms of energy that is both generated and saved, the lower cost of the component materials, and the overall comfort and benefits for the driver. The energy generated and stored using the smart roofs concept is expected to reduce the CO2 emission with related fuel consumption by up to 15%.
In specific terms, the concept that is being addressed by SMARTOP – the research element of which is funded by the European Commission – is to develop a ‘smart’ sunroof that can integrate solar cells, energy storage systems and other devices to maximise energy efficiencies and to ensure driver comfort and fuel economy, both for fully electrical (FEV) and internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.
The sunroof will function through the installation of SolarPrint’s lightweight, low cost solar panels, which will be used to power compact lithium batteries that will in turn power on board technologies. SolarPrint will utilise its dye sensitised solar cell (DSSC) technology in the SMARTOP concept.
Pictured (left to right): Dr Mazhar Bari, chief executive of SolarPrint; Conor Lenihan, TD, Minister for Science, Technology & Innovation; and Dr Michele Byrne, chemist at SolarPrint.