Aston Martin, perhaps best known as the maker of James Bond’s car of choice, is looking for any edge it can give to its line of race cars. The automaker thinks that solar power may provide that edge.

Image courtesy of Aston Martin

All cars participating in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) are required to have air conditioning that keeps the driver’s ambient air temperature at or below 90oF (32oC). But the AC decreases fuel efficiency and reduces the car’s performance. To solve those problems, Aston Martin is teaming up with Hanergy Global Solar, a manufacturer of thin film photovoltaics. They hope to make a PV system that can directly power the car’s air conditioning, freeing the engine to do what Aston Martin engines were designed to do: go fast!


A typical car roof can accommodate a 300 Watt thin film PV panel. Add one to the spoiler and you’ll get about 500 Watts total, assuming full sun and ideal conditions. It’s difficult to find exact power specifications for car AC units, so I used typical numbers based on a Nissan Leaf and calculated that their AC uses about 2.5 kW. If Aston Martin wants the AC driven entirely by PV panels, its engineers have quite a challenge on their hands. The company may have to recruit Q from MI6 to work a little magic.  


If nothing else, the power from the PV panels could at least provide some of the energy needed to run the AC, which will improve performance and fuel economy, even for those of us with more modest vehicles. PV panels can also run a fan to help keep the car cool when it’s parked in the sun. Toyota offers that option on its Prius.


Two things that might become slightly more efficient through this partnership: thin film PV cells and air conditioners. Even so, I doubt that the auto industry will be shaken by rooftop PV panels. It might, however, get a little stirred.




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