"Key Technology for Future Mobility": Solar Integration in the Body of Electric Cars Is Being Prepared for Approval

By Sono Motors

22nd October 2020

Together with the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE in Freiburg, we are working on a project to test and certify solar integration into the body of electric vehicles. The approval process of the Sion, also called homologation, is to be accompanied by a recognized testing service provider. The cooperation will also show in which other application areas the technology could be certified. 

Mathieu Baudrit from Sono Motors at Fraunhofer Institute ISE in Freiburg

With about 1,200 employees, Fraunhofer ISE is the largest solar research institute in Europe. We are the first company to take the step of obtaining series production approval for road traffic, which explicitly includes the integration of solar cells into the entire car body and not only in the roof of the vehicle. Already in May we informed you about the current state of development. More about the technology behind solar integration can be found in our article "Park & Shine".

In the process, we combine lightweight, highly efficient photovoltaic modules with a control unit, a model for predicting the energy yield, and other system components that enable electrical and mechanical integration into vehicle bodies. The solar modules are integrated seamlessly into the surface of the car and are designed to supply vehicles with solar power throughout their entire service life. Mathieu Baudrit, head of the research and development department for solar integration, sees the partnership with the renowned Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems as an important next step towards certification of the unique technology.

Dr. Harry Wirth, Head Manager of Photovoltaics, Modules and Power Plants at Fraunhofer ISE also fully supports the project. He adds: "The integration of solar modules into vehicles is a key technology for the low-carbon mobility of the future. Solar electricity increases a vehicle’s range and fewer charging stops mean lower electricity costs. We are delighted to be able to contribute our institute’s comprehensive expertise, ranging from the development and testing of solar modules to electronic applications to this joint project."

Discussion about the solar panels with Dr. Harry Wirth, Head Manager of Photovoltaics at Fraunhofer Institute ISE and Mathieu Baudrit from Sono Motors.

Our colleague Omar Stern is strongly involved in the project as Senior Project Manager ViPV and explained the cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute in more detail.

Omar, what’s special about our collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems?

Fraunhofer ISE has extensive experience in many different areas of integrated photovoltaics, including vehicle-integrated photovoltaics. Not only in Europe but worldwide it is one of the research institutions with the best and most up-to-date knowledge in this field. It has a remarkable infrastructure where many of the necessary tests for our technology can be performed. This is therefore an important and mutually beneficial collaboration that will help us to jointly advance the future of solar mobility. We will produce the first complete documentation required for the homologation of solar electric vehicles. This will certainly set a precedent and will be used as a standard for other vehicles with solar integration.

What are the requirements for obtaining approval for series production vehicles, or to carry out homologation? And what is the current status?

Our novel, vehicle-integrated photovoltaic technology is an integral part of the vehicle's body shell. Such a technology has not yet been homologated. Therefore, the first step is to understand all requirements and standards regarding safety and quality that are relevant for the approval of the technology used in the automotive industry. Subsequently, a set of standards based on existing regulations as well as standards for photovoltaic and automotive related products must be compiled. The aim is to create a specific "ViPV standard" adapted to our technology. 

The next step is to perform a thorough analysis of the structure, manufacturability and functionality of the technology, including an understanding of all possible errors and failures with a special focus on safety and reliability. This requires the definition of complete test plans for individual components, subsystems and the entire vehicle. These include the above-mentioned standards for photovoltaic modules for safety and quality, ECE homologation regulations for vehicle approval, crash tests (including pedestrian protection and other specifications) and durability tests of the entire vehicle. These tasks are carried out in close cooperation with specialized test laboratories and industrial partners with very good experience in photovoltaics, in our case Fraunhofer ISE, as well as with the homologation of the entire vehicle. 

In addition, the processes and tests are adapted to the environmental conditions and to the legal and technical regulations of the various target markets. All documentation and test results are compiled and submitted to the relevant regulatory authority in the country. This ensures that all the necessary approvals and certificates of conformity for a high-quality product are obtained.

We are currently in the process of finalizing the complete documentation required for homologation and defining the necessary tests. Together with Fraunhofer ISE, we have started discussions with accredited testing facilities and authorities. Currently, tests are being carried out to achieve this goal.

An exciting goal, indeed. It is very revealing to see how many different steps are needed to make the technology ready for series production. It's good to see that things are moving forward. Thank you for your time and good luck in the future!

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