• IEA PVPS report on PV-powered vehicles lists the benefits and challenges in their widespread adoption
  • The report lists several case studies, spanning regions and technologies used for PV-powered vehicles, stating what works and what could work
  • Authors rue the fact that there isn’t any international standardization at present for this segment, and have presented a structure for the same

Published under task 17 of the International Energy Agency Photovoltaic Power Systems Programme (IEA PVPS), a new technology collaboration program explores the world of PV-powered vehicles, and their expected benefits.

The report titled State-of-the-Art and Expected Benefits of PV-Powered Vehicles 2021 sees these vehicles with integrated PV systems as not just low emissions means of transport, but also providing ‘options of convenience and autonomy’. “The market introduction of PV-powered vehicles can be important for the uptake of electric transport and create opportunities for other PV applications in the transport sector, as well,” writes the report.

As several nations look at low-emissions transport as a way to bring down their overall carbon footprint putting in place vehicle emissions targets and stressing on electric vehicles (EV), PV comes into the picture as a fuel source for vehicles—either through the grid or charging point to charge EVs, or as independent of all this in the form of on-board PV or integrated PV-powered vehicles. This report focuses on PV-powered vehicles.

Some of the interesting points covered and takeaways from the report basis several case studies cited, are as follows:

  • Silicon-based cells are the most common technologies for PV-powered vehicles, as these come with ‘best compromise’ between performance, price and reliability, but lack of flexibility as 2-directional bending is a concern.
  • III-V multijunction solar cells contribute to higher conversion efficiency, but lose out due to higher price and spectrum mismatching loss.
  • Perovskite cells have the potential of combining high efficiency, low-cost and flexibility, but this technology is not currently manufactured at large scale due to a lack of reliability/durability and, at present, lower efficiency than c-Si based PV at large scale.
  • Modules need to be not only efficient, but also colored with an aesthetic appeal.
  • It is necessary to increase the utilized PV electricity of PV-powered vehicles for which makers need to factor in an optimized design as PV capacity, efficiency and vehicle’s battery and operating conditions.
  • Driver behavior too contributes to the efficacy of a PV-powered vehicle as the analysts see up to 60% reduction in charging frequency can increase the sense of autonomy and security for the driver.
  • To determine the use of PV in automobiles, it is important to have data on solar irradiance required by a vehicle, paving way for optimal design of an on-board PV system.
  • There is a financial benefit for using PV-powered vehicle as cost savings are realized from avoiding grid charging over the lifetime of the vehicle and these are ‘greater than the original cost of the PV element’, depending on the region.
  • Authors of the report point out that currently there is no published standard for international standardization for vehicle integrated PV (VIPV), and propose a structure of the same.
  • Currently most work is done by intensive discussions between scientists and testing laboratories, especially in terms of PV on the vehicle’s roof.
  • PV-powered vehicles, like all electric vehicles, need to be sometimes recharged additionally by grid electricity so factors that need to be considered here are combination of PV-powered vehicles and various charging infrastructures.

The authors argue that even though currently the share of PV in the transport sector is still small, its potential impact is large and that an electrified transport market will be a key driving force for further development of PV in the coming years. They state, “In order to utilize the potential and to realize PV-powered vehicles, expected benefits should be further validated and evaluated from viewpoints of not only energy, the environment, and from the perspective of users, but also the related industries, and shared with stakeholders such as automotive companies and relevant policy organizations.”

The IEA-PVPS State-of-the-Art and Expected Benefits of PV-Powered Vehicles 2021 report can be viewed and downloaded for free from IEA PVPS website.