Panasonic Unveils Solar Roof That May Appear on the Tesla Model 3
This curved solar panel roof can power lithium-ion batteries.
At a press event in Japan, Panasonic revealed its Photovoltaic Module HIT solar roof that provides enough power to charge a vehicle's lithium-ion battery.
How it Works
The type of solar panels currently available on vehicles typically power only 12-volt batteries that are used to support key-on and -off functions plus some on-board electronics features, such as air conditioning or infotainment. However, Panasonic's Photovoltaic Module HIT has a 180-watt output capability, which would enable it to charge a vehicle's lithium-ion batteries, as well. This means that Panasonic's solar roof could extend the driving range of a plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle, and increase fuel economy where applicable.
Panasonic's new solar roof modules are compatible with three-dimensional curve processing to match a vehicle's body design. For the upcoming Prius PHV, the Photovoltaic Module HIT has been adapted to conform to the hybrid's aerodynamic body style. But Panasonic said in its news statement that it plans to expand the use of its modules, which means the roof could soon make its way onto other vehicles.
Could the Tesla Model 3 be Next?
Panasonic is a top supplier to Tesla, and manufactures lithium-ion battery packs for its vehicles, PowerWall, and PowerPacks at Gigafactory 1. The company is also Tesla's manufacturing partner for solar roof tiles and panels at Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo, New York. The supplier has indicated that it would like to expand its offering to include hardware for autonomous vehicles.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has hinted on Twitter that the Model 3 would probably offer an optional solar roof. The three-dimensional curve processing would give it the ability to mold itself to the Model 3's sleek and aerodynamic body, and potentially provide a way to increase range without increasing battery size.