Putting solar panels on cars sounds like a great idea, until you consider the tangible benefits they can provide. For most applications, even on an ideal sunny day, the gain in electric range is minimal – we’re talking mileage in the low single digits. However, Mercedes-Benz believes in solar panels and will start offering them on production EVs in 2024.
This news comes from a media conference where Markus Schäfer, CTO of Mercedes-Benz, spoke about the new Vision EQXX.
“In the future, therefore, customers will probably have the choice to opt for full glass roofs without interruption, or solar roofs, which are both aesthetically pleasing and have the advantage of extra energy in the battery,” says Schäfer.
Looking at the implementation of a sunroof by Mercedes in the Vision EQXX, the benefits look quite useful. Over a single day in ideal conditions, Mercedes suggests the Vision EQXX’s solar panels will add 25 miles of range over long distances. By comparison, the Euro-spec Ioniq 5 sunroof would add just over 3 miles per day, and the Sonata Hybrid’s sunroof adds about 3 miles of electric driving power per day.
“We are collaborating with the German research institute of Fraunhofer … who has developed together with us solar panels, a very efficient solar panel roof that we put in our vehicles, and that is the idea with series vehicles in the future, probably from 2024 with an increasing number of solar roofs in vehicles from Mercedes-Benz,” says Schäfer.
Mercedes’ concept of using solar panels on the roof isn’t exactly what you think it could be. Instead of feeding power directly to the large lithium-ion battery pack, power is fed from the 117 solar cells on the roof of the Vision EQXX to a separate lithium iron phosphate battery and stored. This battery supplies power to the climate fan, lighting, infotainment system and other accessories. By using this separate battery to power those systems, you reduce the load on the high-voltage system and increase the range. That said, Mercedes says it is also developing a solar power system that can power the high-voltage system.
How much range a production Mercedes EV can get from the sun is still unknown, but we suspect that the final number will be less than the 25 kilometers of the Vision EQXX. After all, not every new Mercedes-Benz EV will have a 0.17 Cd.
And because this is a Mercedes-Benz, Schäfer said several times that the sunroofs themselves would be a sight to behold. We are very curious about what the production roofs look like and what they offer from a range point of view.