Vehicle-integrated photovoltaics (VIPV) have been slow to take off due to practical factors including their weight, inflexibility and low vibration resistance, not to mention the cost of custom-making and integrating them into electric vehicles. But all this could be about to change thanks to the work of Fraunhofer Centre for Silicon Photovoltaics in partnership with OPES Solutions GmbH, who have developed and launched a flexible VIPV module together.
“SolFlex” is based on standard crystalline solar cells but can achieve 30 percent more power per square metre than other thin-film modules and is only 2.9mm thick with a bending radius of 15 degrees. It is also vibration and scratch resistant and designed for intense one-sided heat loads. The team at CSP have found the cells have a 22 percent efficiency overall.
Furthermore, with series production set up in Changzhou, China, OPES hopes to be able to bring the modules to market for an affordable price. All this is good news for the decarbonisation of the transport sector: heavy goods vehicles, trucks and vans account for 29 percent of all global transport CO2 emissions. Flexible VIPV solutions could one day make it possible to run fleets of electric, long-distance transportation trucks.
"Not only the electric transport of goods and merchandise benefits from vehicle-integrated photovoltaics, but electric buses are also an important area of application. Worldwide, more than 28 billion dollars have already been invested in electric buses in 2020, and annual growth of 20 percent is expected for Europe alone," says Robert Händel, OPES founder and CEO, is quoted in an article by .
A light electric truck with SolFlex integrated could reduce its CO2 emissions per year by 890 kilograms and increase its range by 2,400 kilometres. The cost of cooling systems is also brought down: SolFlex could power 100 percent of air conditioning needs in buses, for example. Cargo bikes are another interesting application.