In the old times, there were Priuses. Now, it’s Hyundai. They just launched their Sonata Hybrid and it has a solar roof charging system.
In the 2004-2009 Prius, the solar panel on the top was used to power the air conditioner while the car sat in full sunlight. Not Hyundai. They’re going after mileage gains and reduced carbon dioxide emissions with their panel.
A spokesperson from Hyundai even said that you could charge 30 to 60 percent of the hybrid battery with the solar panel, and that by exposing your car to 6 hours of full sunlight, you can go as far as 1,300km per year. Or about 3.5km per day. Which is some people’s commute to work. Not bad.
However, in 2004 solar panels weren’t as exquisite as in 2019, but Toyota was way ahead of the game back then. Hyundai only plans to release their solar panel-equipped Sonata Hybrid in the US and South Korea, but not in Europe for the moment.
Since I’ve started writing about electric cars in 2007, there have been more than a dozen solar powered vehicles, from cars to planes – all experimental. Now Hyundai takes it to the next level.
Even if it’s not the first to do it, Hyundai is now tackling a realm that’s loved by many around the world – powering their wheels for free. I think it will work, at least as a PR stunt in the beginning, but as solar panels get more efficient, charging a car to take you about 10 to 20km a day would not be impossible.