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Posted on July 22, 2010 by  & 

SolarPrint with Fiat powers vehicles of the future

Irish energy technology company SolarPrint have entered into a partnership with Italian car manufacturing giant, Fiat, to develop solar panels that can be incorporated into automotives roof surface, as a means of generating alternative sources of energy for vehicles by converting light to power.
Under the terms of the deal, SolarPrint is a key part of an international consortium that has begun working with the Centro Richerche Fiat (CRF) - the innovation and research arm of the car manufacturer - on the development of what is described as a 'smart roof'. The new 'smart roof' will incorporate low cost photo voltaic (PV) - or solar - cells and lithium batteries which will in turn be used to power on board devices in cars.
The consortium working on the €3 million project, which has been titled the 'SMARTOP' initiative, also includes scientists from University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin and Imperial College in the UK. Other partners in the group include German semiconductor company, Infineon Technologies, and auto components supplier, Webasto Product.
Dr. Mazhar Bari, Chief Executive Officer, SolarPrint, said: "The SMARTOP project has been set up to create a technology that will revolutionise the auto industry and the cars that we drive, by converting everyday light into a form of power. Simply put, in the not too distant future, cars will be partially powered by PV technologies, which will have significant knock on benefits for consumers, manufacturers and society as a whole," said Dr. Bari.
Mr. Vito Lambertini, New Scouting Materials and Nanomaterials, CRF, said: "The smart sun roofs that will eventually be installed in cars offer a number of important advantages, in terms of energy that is both generated and saved, the lower cost of the component materials, and the overall comfort and benefits for the driver.
"Also, the energy generated and stored using this smart roofs concept is expected to reduce the CO2 emission with related fuel consumption by up to 15 per cent. For these reasons, at Fiat, we believe that this technology will be a major addition to our product lines in the future," said Mr. Lambertini.
Mr. Conor Lenihan TD, Minister for Science, Technology, Innovation & Natural Resources, said: "There has been considerable discussion in recent months about the contribution of innovation-oriented industries to Ireland's economy and this deal is a perfect example of this. As a country and as a Government, we need to do all we can to continue to support Irish, globally focused firms, like SolarPrint, as they develop closer links with major international enterprises".
In specific terms, the concept that is being addressed by SMARTOP - the research element of which is funded by the European Commission - is to develop a 'smart' sunroof that can integrate solar cells, energy storage systems and other devices to maximise energy efficiencies and to ensure driver comfort and fuel economy, both for fully electrical (FEV) and internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.
The sunroof will function through the installation of SolarPrint's lightweight, low cost solar panels, which will be used to power compact lithium batteries that will in turn power on board technologies. SolarPrint will utilise its unique dye sensitised solar cell (DSSC) technology in the SMARTOP concept.
"The continued depletion of the world's fossil fuels means that power hungry industries have become compelled to look at alternative sources of energy to power their products. The auto industry is a perfect example of this, with manufacturers looking at forms of energy other than petrol that can be used in cars. The SMARTOP project is truly a revolutionary step forward for the automotive sector," said Dr. Bari.
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