VIA Motors Shows Off Solar Tonneau Cover Good For An Extra 10 Miles Of Range

NOV 21 2013 BY JAY COLE 28

VIA Motors and Bob Lutz are at the LA Show in a big way.  On Thursday the company has a big presentation to make; but before then you can check out the company’s solar tonneau cover yourself from the floor of the motor show

Another Look At The 800 Watt Tonneau Cover (Photo: C.C. Weiss /

Another Look At The 800 Watt Tonneau Cover (Photo: C.C. Weiss /

Not a lot about this product is known, but VIA says it can provide up to 10 miles of extra range for their VTrux vehicle – which already comes with an estimated 40 miles of all electric, extended range driving.

Napkin-back math time:

The VIA truck has a 24.4 kWh liquid-cooled nanophosphate lithium-ion batteries sourced from A123 Systems, and assuming a similar depth of discharge usage of that of Mr. Lutz’s first EREV creation – the Chevrolet Volt, we can assume the VTrux uses about 16 kWh worth of power to go those 40 miles.  As the company claims 10 miles worth of added energy, that would equal about 4 kWh of solar production in a day.

The Nissan LEAF Also Features A Solar Panel, Good For Upwards Of 10 Watts - Good For Topping Up That 12V

The Nissan LEAF Also Features A Solar Panel, Good For Upwards Of 10 Watts – Good For Topping Up That 12V

VIA says they will sell both a 400 watt 600 watt and a 800 watt cover  – so given the right amount of solar hours in a day (5+) on the larger unit and some conservative driving – 10 miles seems achievable to us. (Just remember to always park your truck so the panels face solar south at about 35° – give or take)

According to Gizmag (where you can also find even more pics on the cover) the cost will be from around $2,000.

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28 Comments on "VIA Motors Shows Off Solar Tonneau Cover Good For An Extra 10 Miles Of Range"

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Not 10 miles. The solar powered Prius when fully covered with flex panels got about 8 miles but it weighed half as much as the truck… maybe it has a built in tracker…


I think the back of that truck displaces way more space than the Prius conversion (and with better capture) – has to be north of 35 square feet.

If those panels/system are really rated at 800 watts, I can see netting 4 kWh on a good day…not everyday by any stretch. But if you are consciously trying to get 10 miles, it could be done quite often I think.

The APRS Prius conversion was rated at 215 watts, and peaked at 1.7 kWh of energy (in an extreme case)

Thinking about it more, those curved panels on the prius were probably amorphous so they generate half the power per square foot vs the ones on the truck which are probably flat silicon regular panels…


You can always tell the guys that have solar (or have had it). I was thinking of that myself but didn’t want to head down that road by myself, (=

And amorphous cells work better for guys like me in cloudy Seattle…
— they’re way cheaper, too!

I’ll take my VIATRUX in the 2015 Chevy Colorado version with a less
pricey amorphous tonneau.

Since I’m wishful thinking here, how about a VIA Sprinter or Ford
Transit van…they’re not built in Mexico, so unlikely, but a man can wish, can’t he?

So what we’re saying is that a Tesla Model S covered in PV could completely counteract its vampire draw 🙂

Here’s the Solar Prius conversion for those wondering….


Some more napkin math.

$2000 = 625 gallons of gas = 12,500 miles

12,500/10/day= 3.4 years

Not that long of a payback.

Yupe, although you have to take on two big assumptions:

A) you are displacing gas ie) there is not plug available for wherever this truck sucks up the sun all day

B) the truck is positioned correctly (outdoors/not obstructed) throughout the solar day and that it has open capacity to accept a charge on its pack ie) not all topped off after a full night’s charge

And I forgot to subtract the price of a normal tonneau cover, which I’ve seen normal ones that costs over $1000.

Yes, good point as well! …assuming the person wants a tonneau cover as well as solar charging, (=

Hi there,

The best hybrids cars, will be solar panels+batteries!!!
Tesla should make it!!! As an option!!!!!! 200 watts? 400 watts? Better then 0.00 per year!!

I leave the hybrid car on the park. Few days later the batteries are full!!!
Magical??? Thank the sun!!!!!!!!!!

Good road with EV.

Be interesting to know how delicate this panel is seeing as it is a 2 person job to install or remove it. Another question: Can you drive the vehicle while the cover is installed or is it just taking too much of a chance that you might crack the $2000 panel? I suppose security is an issue since I imagine you can’t have anyone roughhousing around it.

I wonder if they’d have a 400 watt panel for permanent installation on the roof a la Fisker. I guess the complication is getting the solar panel to bend in 2 directions. I guess that that Solar Innovation died with the company, unless China is going to resurrect it.

I have a roll up cover on my Ford F-150. The better design would be a thin film solar that is retractable. Thin film is less efficient but it is a lot more practical to use in that the cover is there all the time, retractable in seconds, and it is cheaper. Probably half the output for this application.

I really like the solar panel of the Prius that seemingly follow the curves of the roof. Of course the Via version is much more Spartiate but why not. The interesting thing about solar panels on a car is that they can help alleviate the EV idle power consumption problem so that a car that remain unused on a parking lot for a month or two doesn’t have a drained battery when the owner comes back from a longer vacation.
By the way even 6 or 10 miles extra daily driving range is still a good extra to harvest since this is actually also increasing the maximum range of a car because it is electricity collected on the move. In a situation of standard production practice of aluminum body panels with printed solar cells, it would not add much extra cost. In any case it certainly is a more desirable option than costly dead animal skins on all the seats.

I was thinking that same thing myself. Tesla especially could use a bit of juice to maintain the always on computers in their model S cars. The panel wouldn’t have to be that huge to cover the idle consumption.

If it could really achieve 10 miles on a sunny day, that’d be awesome because that’s about my usual daily commute. Of course I don’t like pickup trucks so I guess I’ll have to wait for some high efficiency cells on a Leaf or Volt or something.

They should also cover all that surface area on the rood! Excellent curvature for maximum capture. Probably have a total net of 15miles system total. Now were talking significant…that would cover my average day. If it was free to fuel on average..even I would drive a truck. Some good thinking going on here!

As long as the weight/aero didn’t cause you to lose any EV range gains. (not to mention cost would be a lot higher)

I would be happy if the solar hood/roof/trunk gave me just 5 extra miles while the car was parked in a sunny lot while I’m at work.


Yes…cover the hood too. Very smart thinking. Probably up to 20 miles a day now!
Lots of surface area on a pick up truck, perfect candidates!

This is only the start of car photovoltaics because we can already see different colors PV for different color Model S Tesla.

In this article you can see a motorbike standing under a motorbike port equipoed with red, yellow, green and purple PV. More is possible and even windows can be equiped with transparent PV.

At the rate solar panels are improving every few months I don’t see why they can’t cover a Nissan Leaf in solar panels in that there are a lot of cases where I only drive 15 miles a day. It would be cool to have it sit in the parking lot while I’m at work during the middle of the day and have it at least give me 30% of the power I lost driving there. Besides it would be putting to use a resource that as of now only makes the inside of the car burning hot.

think of how much power you could have with this system if you had a truck but you only used it every three days and only drove 20 miles on the third day. At the least it would prevent the battery from emptying out if it had a vampire load like a Tesla.

Can we think a little bigger? What about a hybrid semi? You have the entire trailer roof for solar panels. Granted these get switched out a lot. But even when parked in a lot the trailers could be plugged into the grid, or workshop of whatever building they are next to.

Now we just need to combine the technology where Volvo is storing the batteries in the body panels with solar technology, so the panels can recharge themselves. 🙂

…think I read something about that in a Ray Bradbury novel once, (=

VTrux can use more of the SOC than the Volt does in design. The A123 would use more in a way similar to the Spark EV (also A123 prismatic).

So, go for a 19-20 kWh usable curve out of the 24 kWh pack.

The solar claim is ridiculous. If the truck were to hit the highway at 55mph, it will be drawing nearly 1 kWh each 3 miles. The 800W array cover should only produce about 2 kWH on a really good day. That is 6 “perfect sun” miles.

Of course it all depends on how ideal the sunlight is. A typical 250 watt panel can generate about 1kwh for the day (assuming 5hrs of strong sunlight). If the truck can hold the equivalent of 4 panels, it would generate 4kWh a day, hence the 10 miles or so daily range enhancement. Cover the roof and the hood, and the range would only go up from there.