With electrification being commonplace in vehicles of today, Audi is looking to further enhance the efficiency of electric vehicles by developing thin-film solar cells that are integrated into panoramic glass roofs.

Working with Alta Devices, a subsidiary of the Chinese solar-cell specialist, Hanergy, the technology will allow electric vehicles to generate solar energy to increase their range. According to the carmaker, the first prototype will be ready by the end of 2017.

While the solar cells will only be applied on panoramic glass roofs on the prototype, future developments will see the entire roof surface be covered with them. The electricity generated can be used by the car’s electrical system to power air-conditioning system or the seat heaters, for example.

“The range of electric cars plays a decisive role for our customers. Together with Hanergy, we plan to install innovative solar technology in our electric cars that will extend their range and is also sustainable,” stated Bernd Martens, member of the Audi Board of Management for Procurement.

Progressing beyond that, solar energy could directly charge the traction battery, similar to what is available on the Nissan Leaf, albeit at a larger scale. “That would be a milestone along the way to achieving sustainable, emission-free mobility,” noted Martens.

The solar cells produced by Alta Devices are said to perform very well also in conditions of low light and high temperature, with an efficiency of more than 25% despite being very thin and flexible.

“This partnership with Audi is Alta Devices’ first cooperation with a high-end auto brand. By combining Alta’s continuing breakthroughs in solar technology and Audi’s drive toward a sustainable mobility of the future, we will shape the solar car of the future,” added Ding Jian, senior vice president of Hanergy.