Hyundai’s solar roof isn’t as dumb as it seems – TechCrunch

The new Hyundai Sonata Hybrid has solar cells built into its roof. After baking in the sun all day, the car can add 3-4 miles to its range. This may sound frustrating, but my EV dumps a lot more than 3 to 4 miles a day sitting parked and doing what a Tesla does when it’s not being driven. I can only assume that, due to his energy consumption while doing nothing, he becomes self-aware, develops feelings and writes love hiccups to Elon Musk.

“The Sonata Hybrid solar panels have a capacity of 204 watts to be exact. That is, the panels exposed to the sun in good sunlight will produce 200 watts per hour of electricity,” Hyundai wrote on its website. Fair, 200 watts is nothing, but in the context of electric cars, 200 watts isn’t exactly that impressive. A high-speed home charger on a 50-amp circuit breaker can charge at 9.6 kW – about 50 times faster than the pathetic little solar cells baked into the Sonata’s roof.

Hyundai argues that “charging for 5.8 hours per day adds 1,300 kilometers per year to the total driving distance.” Do the math, and it turns out you’re lucky to add 2.5 miles per day to your range. If you are physically able and your commute is 2.5 miles or less, arguing that hiking is probably better for the environment, your health, and the sanity of the public transportation infrastructure. But there are a lot of people who drive less than 2.5 miles a day – and even if weather patterns say not to add as many miles of range to your car, it wouldn’t be terrible if the car had the same battery power or the battery power was just a little bit bigger. After a few days of sitting idle.

In a world where average drivers drive 10,000 miles a year, 800 miles of free driving means an increase in fuel efficiency of about 8%. In any world, if someone offers you an 8% discount on anything, you take it. If you also make a paper out of a hypermiling book, it all comes down to real numbers.

It’s hard to say if the added cost and complexity of the roof is actually a way to save money (or even the environment) in the long run – but I think there’s an issue of principle at play here: every car has a little square foot of real estate that isn’t being used for anything. Useful in trunk, roof and hood. If it can reduce overall energy consumption by 8-10%, multiply it by all vehicles with battery storage capacity (electric vehicles, hybrids, etc.) and it will soon start increasing. The solar roof feature is available on the top-of-the-line 2022 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited Edition, which starts at $35,500.

It’s very easy to snap up Hyundai and others for the greenwash, and perhaps this gimmick will eventually turn out, over the life of the car, to be quite negative. But I’ll tell you one thing: I’d rather drive with a rooftop solar panel doing hardly anything, than a supposedly “clean” diesel that cheats on its emissions tests.

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