Here are the top 8 electric vehicles of 2022 with solar roofs
With the increased interest in renewable and sustainable energy systems, and of course, electric-powered vehicles, solar-powered cars have come to the fore. Many automobile companies are working towards making solar-powered vehicles.
Solar-powered vehicles are electric vehicles that use photovoltaic cells to convert energy from sunlight into electricity. These vehicles can store some solar energy in batteries to allow them to run smoothly at night or in the absence of direct sunlight. If used on a large scale, solar-powered vehicles not only help with environmental pollution but also noise pollution.
Many prototypes of solar-powered cars are currently in development, and some are even produced.
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Both large and small automakers are involved in developing hybrid solar cars. According to estimates. the solar vehicle market could reach 689 billion by 2027. Automobile companies are already working on ways to capitalize on the idea with interim technology, such as solar roof panels for charging batteries and internal systems.
Here are the eight electric vehicles with solar roofs, that are able to charge themselves while on the way.
Mercedes-Benz Vision EQXX
The iconic German automaker debuted the Vision EQXX in January at Consumer Electronics Show (CES), having teased the luxury electric vehicle (EV) several times in recent months. The electric concept sedan boasts a range of 620 miles (1,000 km).
Mercedes already has a luxury EV sedan on the verge of entering the market, the 441-mile-range EQS. With the EQXX, it promises to go further, achieving a drag coefficient of 0.17 compared to the EQS’s 0.20.
One of the standout features of Mercedes’s new luxury EV concept is its 117-cell solar panel roof, which charges ancillary systems in the car, allowing for extra range. The solar roof was developed as part of a collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE. According to Mercedes, on a day with ideal conditions, the solar roofing can add up to 15 miles (25 km) of range. As per Mercedes’s statement, this, as well as the battery innovations and aerodynamic design, make the EQXX the most efficient Mercedes-Benz ever built.
The U.S.-based electric carmaker Fisker’s Ocean SUV has an option for a solar roof with the Extreme model. Impressively, it can roll back simultaneously with every window via the car’s California mode. While global window opening isn’t unique to the Ocean SUV, we can’t think of another company that has implemented it at this scale.
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The standard Ocean model will start at a price of 37,499. It will come with front-wheel drive, have a range of 250 miles (402 km), and produce 275 horsepower.
The 49,999 Ocean Ultra produces up to 540 horsepower, goes from zero to 60 mph (100 kph) in 3.9 seconds, and has a bigger battery, giving it a range of 340 miles (547 km). The top of the tier, however, is the Ocean Extreme, which has a range of 350 miles (563 km) and will generate 550 horsepower. The Ultra and the Extreme both feature four-wheel drive.
Fisker Ocean Design
Chairman and CEO Henrik Fisker himself designed the Ocean. Instead of resorting to an aerodynamic design in the interest of range, he adopted a somewhat quirky design. The Ocean’s stance is upright, but sleek elements are all around. A full-width LED light bar unites the horizontal LED headlamps with illuminated Ocean lettering at the center. The Fisker logo is illuminated as well. The chin comprises a grille with honeycomb inserts.
The side profile is uncluttered. 20-inch aero wheels produced using recycled materials are standard, while higher variants come with 22-inch rims. The Fisker Ocean gets flush-fitting door handles, side body cladding, and a blacked-out window area. There’s a rear quarter glass, and there are ultra-sleek tail lamps. There’s also a subtle roof-integrated spoiler with a stop lamp. The rear bumper looks complex with its multi-layered design and has a massive diffuser.
Fisker designed the Ocean to have a very low insurance cost. One of the measures it took in this regard was making the fenders out of plastic. Image: Fisker
Customers can choose from seven color options: Night Drive, Great White, Silver Lining, Horizon Gray, Mariana, and Blue Planet. The Big Sur Blue metallic matte paint is offered exclusively on the Fisker Ocean One launch edition.
The interior is packed to the brim with exciting details. For starters, the Fisker Ocean has what the company calls a ‘vegan’ interior with ethically sourced sustainable materials. The eco-friendly cabin houses premium upholstery, carpets, and interior trims built using recycled plastic bottles, repurposed rubber waste, worn-out t-shirts, and abandoned fishing nets, on all variants.
On December 13, 2022, Fisker shared a picture of the Ocean’s interior on Instagram while he was having a look at its various interior color and material combinations. The dark, grayish theme of this Ocean suggests it features the Black Abyss Plus interior color and Black FeelTek seats. This interior configuration includes Black EcoFabric on the dashboard, doors, and center console, and dark metallic accents.
Revolve rotating touchscreen
For Fisker, size clearly matters. The 17.1-inch central touchscreen is among the largest we’ve seen on production vehicles. It appears like a TV screen attached to the Ocean’s dashboard. It’s a rotating panel with two modes — the portrait ‘Control’ Mode and the landscape ‘Hollywood’ Mode for owners to stream movies. Fisker has applied for a patent for its Revolve screen, but it is not granted yet. The rotating function is only on the Extreme and the launch edition One variants.
To tilt the touchscreen from portrait to landscape and vice-versa, the driver has to press and hold a large and easy-to-locate button situated right below it. The infotainment system has a simple, focused, and intuitive UI.
Fisker Pulse Sound system
The Ocean features the 575-watt Fisker Pulse Audio System with Panasonic’s ELS Studio 3D technology. It gets 15 speakers, a 6-channel dashboard speaker array, and a 19L subwoofer. The Ocean Ultra features a 12-speaker Harman audio system, while the Ocean Sport settles for an 8-speaker Harman audio system with a 3-Band equalizer.
The Ocean Extreme and Ocean One offer a theater-like cabin experience with the Fisker Pulse Audio System. There’s also a Limo Mode on the top two variants which brings a digital touchscreen for the rear passengers to control cabin temperature, fan speed, and infotainment.
While we’re on the subject of sound, it’s also worth noting that the Ocean generates an artificial sound through speakers at low speeds to alert nearby pedestrians, drivers, and riders. It’s a sci-fi-inspired sound that makes the Ocean feel futuristic. Fisker has shared a video on Instagram to give a demo of this artificial sound feature, which is slowly turning mandatory as part of basic safety.
Doggie Power Windows
An incredibly unique feature called the California Mode provides passengers with a convertible-like experience. On the Ultra, Extreme, and One variants, all the glass areas including the rear quarter glass and the rear windscreen, can be rolled down at the touch of a button to let the breeze inside. Fisker calls the rear quarter glass and the rear windscreen ‘Doggie Windows’, implying that pets can enjoy the drive from the rear. The California Mode also rolls back the SolarSky roof.
Fisker Intelligent Pilot
The Ocean features Fisker Intelligent (FI) Pilot, the company’s ADAS system for enhanced safety and driving comfort. FI Pilot uses a combination of four sensors: a world-first “Digital Radar System” that consists of front and rear radars, a set of cameras (an 8 MP front camera and four surround-view cameras), ultrasonic sensors, and a driver monitoring camera.
Like Tesla, Fisker isn’t using LiDAR sensors. While Tesla thinks that its camera-based system is better, Fisker was simply looking for a more affordable solution. In an interview with Fierce Electronics in January 2022, Fisker said that Digital Radar System lowers the cost, and that ensuring that the Ocean was accessible to everyone was really important.
Five HD radars on all corners and front of the vehicle provide the Ocean a 360-degree coverage. Fisker says that Digital Radar System is better at providing driver safety than analog radar. With more resolution and greater detail, this system can distinguish pedestrians and small objects from objects beside them better. It can sense smaller objects with greater precision, which means small and low-lying objects on the road have a lesser chance of being left undetected.
Digital Radar can make out between objects of different sizes at different speeds. For example, where an analog radar might read two trucks as a solid object and miss the open lane between them, Digital Radar can also see a vehicle driving in the middle lane. It performs better in dark places like tunnels, too.
Earlier, there were reports of Fisker using Volkswagen’s MEB platform for the Ocean SUV. After the brand partnered with Magna, it was confirmed to be built on an aluminum skateboard architecture christened FM29, which stands for Fisker-Magna, and 29 for the 2921 mm wheelbase.
The entry-level Sport variant gets a single-motor FWD drivetrain, while the rest get a dual-motor-AWD layout. In the interest of range, the drive is deployed to the rear only if the traction control system detects a loss of grip. All variants except the Sport also get torque vectoring.
The most performance-focused powertrain of the Ocean, available in the Extreme and One grades, produces 468 HP and 696.4 Nm (514 lb.-ft.) of torque. A Boost mode allows the driver to temporarily increase the power and torque to 564 HP and 736.8 Nm (543 lb.-ft.), respectively. Despite the abundant power and torque, the top speed is just 205 km/h (127 mph), but we think it’s electronically limited. Recently, Fisker shared a video (on Instagram) showing him driving the Ocean above the top speed – 208 km/h (129 mph).
The Sport grade uses a lithium-ion-phosphate battery developed by CATL, which provides the Ocean with 250 miles of range (targeted EPA). The rest of the grades, all of which have an AWD drivetrain layout, use a different battery pack that CATL also supplies.
The Ultra, Extreme, and One variants get what Fisker calls the Hyper Range battery that comprises a nickel-manganese-cobalt cell chemistry. Fisker has confirmed that the energy storage capacity of this battery pack in the Extreme and One variants is 113 kWh, and we expect the same capacity in the Ultra variant.
The Ocean delivers an EPA-est. range (confirmed) of 360 miles in its Extreme and One grades, 10 miles more than the internal estimate. This makes it America’s longest-range electric SUV under USD 200,000 on sale today. Do note that this figure applies to the configurations with the standard 20-inch wheels and tires. In the Ultra variant, the targeted EPA-est. range is 340 miles.
Fisker posted a video on on March 4, 2022, showcasing the solar roof from the cabin of the Fisker Ocean. It appears that the solar cells are placed in square-shaped grids with enough space between them to allow light inside, which is quite an intelligent design. The company chief says that this is the largest solar roof on an electric car, a claim that cannot be verified until we have the exact dimensions of the top.
Remember that the Lightyear One and Aptera also have solar roofs. The Lightyear One has solar panels on the roof and the bonnet, while the Aptera has solar panels at the front, on the roof, and at the rear. So the Fisker might have the most extensive solar roof, but it’s unlikely that it has the largest solar panel in size.
The tires feature Bridgestone’s ‘Enliten’ EV-specific technology that reduces rolling resistance by up to 30% and reduces weight by up to 20%. The Lightyear One also features tires with the same technology.
Fisker offers the Wallbox Pulsar Plus wall charger as the home charging solution for the Ocean in the U.S. and Canada. Wallbox’s Pulsar Plus charger is smaller than a toaster and weighs just 1 kg or 2.2 lbs. (without cable). It allows charging at up to 22 kW and comes with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity and DC leakage protection. Customers using this charger can schedule charging sessions during off-peak hours to save money and control it using the company’s myWallbox app on their Smart devices.
Fisker Ocean in the Extreme and Launch Edition has a full-length moveable solar panel to generate energy to support the vehicle. It can produce up to 1500 clean, emission-free miles a year when fully exposed to the sun. Even more in ultra-sunny locations like southern California and Arizona. The other trim levels also feature glass roofs, though the lowest-price Sport model appears to be a fixed roof.
Battery: There are two battery configurations. On the base Sport, it is called Touring, with 250 miles of range. On higher trims, it is called Hyper; Ultra, you get 340 miles, and on the Extreme and One models, you get 350 miles. And yes, the battery can be configured as a residence or other application power source. This lithium-ion phosphate (LFP) batteries are supplied by CATL, based in China, and are a significant battery supplier to Tesla and other EV brands.
Drive Motors: The base Sport comes with a single front wheel drive configuration, while the others are dual motor All-Wheel Drive with rear disconnect for more efficiency. Being electric, there are no gears per se, but there are drive modes of Earth, Fun, and Hyper in the upper trim models.
Produced in Austria a the Magna Steyr factory where iconic small batch vehicle production is done, think Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon, Toyota Supra/BMW Z4, Jaguar I-Pace, and others. However, this is an all battery-electric vehicle that is new from the ground up. And unlike the Toyota|BMW twins, it does not share its design with any other brand.
How Do Solar Panel Cars Work?
Solar panel cars use photovoltaic cells to convert sunlight into electricity. These cells are made of materials such as silicon and generate electricity when photons from the sun knock electrons free from atoms. The DC electrical energy generated by the solar panels is then sent to a battery, which stores the energy for later use. The battery is usually located in the trunk or under the car, and it can be charged either by solar panels or by plugging the car into an electrical outlet. Some solar-powered cars are also equipped with regenerative braking, which captures energy that is normally lost during braking and sends it back to the battery for storage. This helps to increase the efficiency of the car and extend its range.
One of the main benefits of solar panel cars is that they are environmentally friendly. They generate zero emissions while driving, which can help reduce air pollution and lower greenhouse gas emissions. Solar panel cars also reduce dependence on fossil fuels, which are a finite resource that creates numerous environmental and geopolitical challenges.
In addition to their environmental benefits, solar panel cars can also help reduce transportation costs. Once the initial investment is made in the car and solar panels, there are few ongoing expenses. Owners don’t have to pay for gas or oil changes, and the maintenance costs for electric motors are typically lower than those for internal combustion engines. Additionally, solar panel cars are durable and long-lasting, with a lifespan of up to 30 years or more. This means that solar panel cars can potentially have a longer lifespan than traditional vehicles.
Challenges of Solar Panel Cars
While there are many potential benefits to solar panel cars, there are also a number of challenges that must be addressed before they can become a practical transportation option for most people. One of the biggest challenges is the limited amount of energy that can be generated by solar panels, meaning most models require a backup battery or other power sources to ensure that they can continue running when there isn’t enough sunlight.
Another challenge is the cost of solar panel cars. Because they are a relatively new technology, they can be expensive to manufacture and purchase resulting in accessibility concerns for many consumers, especially those in developing countries or low-income households.
Finally, solar panel cars require a significant amount of space for the solar panels. This can make them less practical for people who live in areas with limited parking or who need to drive long distances.
Exciting Models in Development
Despite these challenges, there are a number of exciting solar panel cars currently in development.
- Fisker, an EV manufacturer, is set to launch its latest model, the Fisker Ocean One, which will be a solar-powered SUV. Featuring the “SolarSky,” a single solar panel running the full length of the vehicle’s roof, the Fisker Ocean One is expected to be released in the fall of 2023. Fisker claims that its solar roof can generate up to 1,500 miles per year of emission-free energy. The vehicle also boasts a range of up to 350 miles and can accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.6 seconds.
- Lightyear has been developing cars with solar power as a primary FOCUS since the company’s inception. The initial fleet of vehicles was launched in December 2022, featuring the Lightyear 0 as one of the pioneering solar electric vehicles (sEVs) designed exclusively for solar-powered driving. The Lightyear 0 boasts a solar range of up to 43 miles per day, but it can also be charged using a standard EV plug or extension cord.
- Aptera is a recent entrant into the solar EV market and intends to completely reimagine the concept of a car. Its flagship vehicle, also named Aptera, is a two-seater three-wheeled car that resembles an aircraft rather than a traditional car. In some states, drivers may require a motorcycle license to operate it due to its unique design. Aptera has prioritized aerodynamics and developed a car with an extremely low drag coefficient to minimize air resistance. To reduce weight, the company employs individual motors on each of the three wheels. Aptera anticipates the release of its first solar EV in 2023, but securing funds remains a challenge for the company, which is considering investment, crowdfunding, and even government loans.
Solar panel cars have emerged as a promising solution to the environmental and geopolitical challenges posed by fossil fuels. These cars convert sunlight into electricity using photovoltaic cells and send the energy to a battery for later use. They are environmentally friendly, reduce transportation costs, and have a long lifespan. However, there are several challenges to their widespread adoption, such as limited energy generation, high manufacturing costs, and space constraints for solar panels. While it may take some time for these cars to become accessible to all, their potential benefits make them a promising technology for the future of sustainable transportation.