Irish energy technology company SolarPrint has entered into a partnership with Fiat to develop a “smart roof” incorporating low cost photo voltaic (solar) cells and lithium batteries that will in turn be used to power on board devices in cars. The panels will be incorporated into the roof surface of automotives, as a means of generating alternative sources of energy for vehicles by converting light to power.
Under the terms of the agreement, SolarPrint will be a key part of an international consortium that has begun working with the Centro Richerche Fiat (CRF), the innovation and research arm of the Italian car manufacturer. The deal will see the development of what is described as a ‘smart roof’. The consortium working on the 3 million euro project, which has been titled the ‘SMARTOP’ initiative, also includes scientists from University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin and Imperial College London.
“The SMARTOP project has been set up to create a technology that will revolutionise the auto industry and the cars that we drive, by converting everyday light into a form of power. Simply put, in the not too distant future, cars will be partially powered by PV technologies, which will have significant knock on benefits for consumers, manufacturers and society as a whole,” said Dr. Mazhar Bari, CEO of SolarPrint.
“The smart sun roofs that will eventually be installed in cars offer a number of important advantages, in terms of energy that is both generated and saved, the lower cost of the component materials, and the overall comfort and benefits for the driver,” said Vito Lambertini, from CRF. Lambertini added that the smart roof technology is expected to reduce fuel consumption by 15 percent.
The Irish Minister for Science, Technology & Innovation, Conor Lenihan TD, said: “There has been considerable discussion in recent months about the contribution of innovation-oriented industries to Ireland’s economy and this deal is a perfect example of this.”
The concept that is being addressed by SMARTOP is to develop a ‘smart’ sunroof that can integrate solar cells, energy storage systems and other devices to maximise energy efficiencies and to ensure driver comfort and fuel economy, both for fully electrical (FEV) and internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. The sunroof will function through the installation of SolarPrint’s lightweight, low cost solar panels, which will be used to power compact lithium batteries that will in turn power on board technologies. SolarPrint will utilise its unique dye sensitised solar cell (DSSC) technology in the SMARTOP concept.