Italian car-manufacturing giant Fiat has entered into a partnership with University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin and Solar Print, a Dublin based SME, to develop solar panels that can be incorporated into the surface of an automobile’s roof.
The ’Smartop’ project is a €3m (£2.5m) European Commission-funded research project under the FP7 RTD programme.
Under the terms of the deal, the consortium 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 that will incorporate low-cost photovoltaic (PV) cells and lithium batteries, which will in turn be used to power on-board devices in cars.
The Solar Energy Engineering group, led by Prof K Ravi Thampi at the University College Dublin (UCD) School of Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering, is leading the UCD element of the Smartop project.
’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 Mazhar Bari, a physics graduate from University College Dublin, who founded Solarprint with two colleagues.
’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,’ said Vito Lambertini, New Scouting Materials and Nanomaterials, Centro Richerche Fiat.
’Also, the energy generated and stored using this smart-roofs concept is expected to reduce the CO2 emission 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,’ he said.