Hyundai and Kia To Introduce Solar Car Roofs in 2019


Seems a bit gimmicky, though.

Ever since this new generation of electric cars have begun to make their way into dealerships and owner’s driveways, people have wondered why they all don’t have solar panels to recharge the batteries.

I’ve personally responded to dozens of people on various blogs and online forums that have asked about it, and question why integrated solar panels weren’t already commonplace. The answer is pretty simple, the panels currently available just don’t generate enough energy to offset the weight and cost that add.

A few OEMs (Toyota, Nissan & Fisker) have experimented with integrating solar into their vehicles, but it really resulted in more of a gimmick, because the cost and weight penalty negated any tangible gain the system provided.

The Toyota Prius Prius Prime solar roof

Toyota and Panasonic teamed up recently to provide a solar roof option for the Prius Prime PHEV, an option which is only available in Japan, but not in the US. To do so, Panasonic created a new lamination technology making it possible to install the solar panels onto the curved roof of the Prius Prime. The 180-watt panel powers the vehicle accessories and also helps recharge the Prime’s high-voltage traction battery. In optimal conditions, Toyota says the system can add 3.7 miles of range to the battery in a day. So that’s about 1 kWh of electricity added in perfect conditions per day. The national average cost for electricity is 12 cents per kWh, so it’s easy to see the system could never pay for itself, let alone offset the efficiency loss the vehicle has by carrying the extra weight the system adds to the vehicle.

Hyundai’s panoramic solar roof

So, Hyundai has its work cut out for them if they want to develop a system that actually makes sense. Solar efficiency is increasing all the time, and we’re sure there will come a day when solar integration into cars is beneficial, but we’re not sure we’re there quite yet.

Still, we think it’s good to see automakers beginning to integrate solar into their vehicles, as it’s certainly going to be the norm in the future.


Hyundai has announced that they will implement three distinct steps to introduce solar roof technology across the brand. Here’s how Hyundai describes the process:

  • The first-generation solar roof system, which will be applied to hybrid models, includes a structure of mass-produced silicon solar panels that are mounted on an ordinary roof. This system can charge 30 to 60 percent of the battery per day, depending on the weather condition and the environment.
  • The second-generation semi-transparent solar roof system will be applied to vehicles with internal combustion engines, for the first time in the world. Differentiated from the first-generation system, the second-generation system provides transmissive panel options, also satisfying consumers who desire a sense of openness. The semi-transparent solar panels are applied to a panoramic sunroof, maintaining transparency whilst charging an electric vehicle’s battery or an additional battery mounted on an internal combustion engine vehicle.
  • The third-generation lightweight solar-lid system, currently in the process of pilot study for applying to eco-friendly vehicle models, includes a structure that mounts solar panels on a bonnet and roof combined, in order to maximize energy output.

A Hyundai technician examines a solar roof panel

Hyundai doesn’t expect to deliver a solar roof system dedicated to recharging a BEV’s main traction battery until the third generation of their technology is introduced, and no timeline for that iteration was given. We only know that the first-generation system should start showing up on 2019 hybrid models at some point next year. The developer of this technology, Jeong-Gin Park, pointed out that solar isn’t going to be the only technology that generates electricity on future Hyundai vehicles, and that their cars will not only be energy consumers, but also producers:

“In the future, we expect to see many different types of electricity-generating technologies integrated into our vehicles. The solar roof is the first of these technologies, and will mean that automobiles no longer passively consume energy, but will begin to produce it actively. It is an exciting development for us, designing a technology for vehicle owners to help them shift from being energy users to being energy producers.” – Jeong-Gil Park, Hyundai’s Executive Vice President of the Engineering and Design Division

We’ll keep an eye out for announcements on which hybrid models from Hyundai, Kia and possibly the Genesis line are the first to offer the solar roof option, and keep you posted.

Categories: Hyundai, Kia

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply

49 Comments on "Hyundai and Kia To Introduce Solar Car Roofs in 2019"

newest oldest most voted

While I applaud manufacturers experimenting with solar integration, how about focusing on EV development first? Roll out some legit long-range EV’s AND produce them in large scale. Then dabble with side projects and concepts. Just a thought.

Please, please, please, just give me an electric truck, or panel van. I’ll even settle for a PHEV.

That will attack the most profitable ice segment so no juice for you….unless Tesla or another ev only manufacturer (Rivian was it?) jump into it.

They can do more than one thing at the same time.

yes, but doing solar on the cars will not help a single thing.
Only idiots push this garbage.

How would 3.7 miles of 100% carbon-free transportation not help anything? How is that garbage and how are people who’re making this possible idiots?


Smart people use their time and brains to develop a great future while other people call names on others on the internet.

That would be great. Even just making enough of the EVs they have already designed to supply to demand would be a huuuuge improvement. In Norway at least, Ioniq, Kona, Niro, e-Tron, EQC, e-Golf, and of course Model 3 are all cars a lot of people are just waiting for. Nissan can for the most part supply LEAF in a reasonable time, but it is really the only popular EV that has good availability.

Even if the solar was just enough to vent a hot car in the summer I think that would be great.

It seems reasonable to do that, but the energy and cost that went to making the solar panel on the roof probably exceeds any savings.

If the roof panel generates 1 kWh per day for 250 days a year, that is roughly $25 worth of electricity. Do that for 10 years and you are up to $250. Realistically I imagine it will be less than half that. You would be better off using the extra from the grid.

However, the option is a smart way to make money if they style it very nicely. I couldn’t tell you how many times people ask why they don’t put solar panels on cars. Think of it like leather seat upgrades, doesn’t improve the vehicle, but you might like them for other reasons.

The numbers are a bit better for CA at $600 but the main problem with your post is that you are thinking that it’s all about $. In Hawaii probably a option like this would be close to pay for itself.

Put the panel on the roof instead of lugging it around on your car. That’s what logical people do. You’ll need more than a dozen of them facing the sun to make a meaningful impact on usage, even in Hawaii.

Hear hear. Certainly anyone who lives in a house and doesn’t have solar panels on the roof, it makes a lot more sense to put one there. That would be true even if you only used the same size panel, and is of course all the more true since the roof of a house is quite a lot larger than that on a car. And a lot of cars, certainly mine, are almost always parked under roof anyway.

That was already done by Audi A6 solar roof in 2004

Wasn’t 2004 the year when solar cells were awfully inefficient and expensive?

There was a locally-made car accessories one could buy here in Israel around 1980 that already did this for any car. The accessory was held in place between a side window and the roof. It consisted of a small PV panel on the outside of the vehicle which powered a small exhaust fan. Very effective in ensuring the car interior was not hotter than ambient. Paid for itself in less than a year by reducing heat damage to car interior.

The only advantage I can see is that a car that generates the power needed for air conditioning could be left sitting in the sun for months… Not sure that’s a relevant use case, though.

You obviously can’t see as far as others…

waste of time and money. Far better to put the solar at charge stations.

To generate the electricity, you would have to park your car in full sunlight, which heats up the car. Then you use that electricity to cool the car. I think I’ll hang on to my covered parking spot instead. The few times I am caught in a situation where there is nowhere but a sundrenched open parking area, I just leave the sunroof open. This is a solution in search of a problem.

As a limited use tool to make the cabin more comfortable on hot days, maybe. But as the article notes, the cost and weight penalty have made this a losing proposition in the past. As solar cells get cheaper and lighter it may be useful in some applications going forward. But the roof is at a poor angle for a solar array, so it will probably not be optimal in most cases even as costs and weight go down.

“In the future, we expect to see many different types of electricity-generating technologies integrated into our vehicles…”

I wonder what other technologies are possible. Personally I think the solar roof only makes some sense if you have to park your car in the sunlight all day while you work. If you can park in the shade, it won’t take as much effort to cool the car for the drive home. Alternate electric generation, windmill on roof?

Windmill creates a net negative energy contribution to the car’s energy.
I’m really disappointed seeing Hyundai/Kia assign any engineering resources to crap snake oil like this.

“Windmill creates a net negative energy contribution to the car’s energy”

You sure about that?

I would love to see a 1000 watt solar panel on the roof of a leaf or tesla.

The reasoning why is if you drive the car less then 12 miles a day it would be good to have it sit in the parking lot at work in the open sun and the house drive way.

You couldn’t fit 1000 watts of panels on any Tesla.

Yes, the appeal of this idea says a lot about most people’s general ignorance of basic physics. Most people do not know what a kWh is, how much one costs or how many they use let alone the energy density of sunlight and the energy requirements of a motor vehicle.

Which is why it’s so easy for companies like Hyundai, Toyota, etc. to give the appearance of being at the cutting edge of EV development, by making press releases of inconsequential programs like this, without actually getting down to the meaningful work of producing decent numbers of worthwhile EVs.

Does basic physics actually say it’s impossible to collect 1000 W from the surface area of a typical car? My guess is that it’s rather “only” prevented by the limitations of existing commercial solar cell technology…

Not even that… You could collect even more than just 1000 W from 8 to 9 square meters… Standard is around 18 to 20 percent. Record settings cells are at 33 percent… Of course angle dead space and connection reduces the numbers but 1000 watts shouldn’t be too much of a hassle..

If you like to now what your beloved laws of physics say, you could first learn them and then try to use the magic of math…

That would prevent you from having to make uneducated guesses… “My guess is…”

How much it costs is NOT a basic principle of physics. And stating something about the laws of physics without ANY Numb3rs is useless anyways… You would have done a better job by giving the relevant numbers. A is approximately 8 square meters. @ 1000W per square meter that gives you 8000W of sunlight available. @ 0.15 for Eta that would be 1200 W.
Maybe that helps you to get a better feel of the amount of energy that could theoretically be harvested. Of course angle is suboptimal etc but 1000 W is far from nothing and far from enough to charge a phone and far from being anything that shouldn’t be taken into account when it comes to the goal of clean transportation.

Just take a look at the benefits of having a power source with you and therefore reducing the dependency on external charging. Of course for those owning a home it would make more sense to place the cells on the roof of their house. But that does not imply that the general idea of harvesting energy on the road is something we shouldn’t take into consideration.

Your could fit a kW of triple junction cells. They’re very expensive, so it would make even less sense economically.

Using triple junction cells would likely deliver more than the wanted 1000 W. Rough estimate would be 2000 W.
If 1000 W is enough you could go with cheaper cells…

Napkin math and physics says:
4.979 mm x 1.964 mm
More than 9 square meters
even 15% efficiency cells would bring you to the goal of 1000 W

The add-on 1st option is really useful for hot southern climates in summer to chill down interiors! It’s good for electric compressor deployed in many cars now. I don’t think it can actually recharge 30~50% of long range EVs as the solar panel efficiency still below 20%. This would be good for passenger vans too as when it’s idling, waiting for customers. My Prius electric compressor draws 1KW now so if they can provide 1KWH of energy in 8 hours that’s only good for chilling 1 hour out of 8 hours, meaning turning on 7.5 minutes per hour. Well it’s gimmicky after calculation! My real-life experience tells me you need to turn it on 10 minutes every 30 minutes to keep it nice and cool. Keep on working it Hyundai! I’ve done the math for you! Actually what gets the car hot is from Windows exposed to sun so many they can have roll up solar panels inside the windows, that should cover it!

Should be enough to charge your phone though………

You seem to own quite a monster of a phone…

This would be fine to eliminate parasitic losses on an EV in long term storage. Don’t see much else use.

What if parasitic loss would be reduced? If I remember correctly more than 100W are quite a opportunity to optimize something…

Once you overcome the hurdle of not accepting current inefficient technology as something given it might open your mind to see more…

“[…] it’s certainly going to be the norm in the future.”

I seriously doubt that. It will likely remain a gimmick forever. But if there are enough people willing to pay for such a gimmick, of course the makers will want to sell it…

This makes zero sense where I live. Not only is the sun not intense enough to make it possible to get a meaningful amount of energy from car-rooftop solar, but the car is almost never parked under the open sky.

You should move to a sunny state with a beach… Drive a mile to the beach park your solar car in the sun and take a 8h nap in the shadow… Then return to your home and have a higher mileage available than before 😉

Car manufacturer comes to mind. Their solarcell covered car Lightyear ONE is being revealed early next year.

All those comments about the “laws of physics” are likely coming from people who have no clue of physics… Meanwhile people who studied the subject are using their knowledge of the laws of physics to develop things instead of whining on the internet… And before someone comes up with that stupid “too expensive” type “arguments… Most new tech is expensive and all of them get cheaper once exiting the development stage and entering mass production. Anyone remember the days when computers were expensive? Anyone remember the days when you had to carry around a heavy notebook with 80 MHz and charge its battery for 8 hours just to enjoy 2 hours of mobile computing… There are several ways to make cars more efficient than the current state of the art. That will be the key to success for solar cars. approximately 1000 W/m^2 is not nothing… Of course at 20% current solar cells are not able to drive a car of the current style. But luckily many smart people are working hard to make solar cells more efficient, cheaper same for batteries… Drive trains… Aerodynamics… Yes each of these fields has their theoretical limits but seeing progress on all… Read more »