The Vision EQXX is a sign of things to come from Mercedes not just in terms of an ultra-low drag coefficient, highly efficient batteries, and lightweight construction, but also a preview of EVs with solar roofs. In a conversation with Autoblog, Chief Technology Officer, Markus Schäfer, said the first production model from the three-pointed star to use solar cells will arrive in 2024.
In just two years’ time, electric car buyers will be given the opportunity to pick from a fullsize, uninterrupted glass roof or go with a solar roof for storing extra energy which will then be fed to the battery. While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, Schäfer said a solar roof is “extremely aesthetically attractive,” aside from giving an EV that extra precious range.
Mercedes has teamed up with Fraunhofer, Europe’s largest application-oriented research organization, to develop solar panels that will trickle down to road-going vehicles after debuting on the Vision EQXX with its 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) of range. In the concept, there are no fewer than 117 solar cells embedded into the roof. During a whole day spent under ideal conditions, the solar roof can add as much as 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) of range.
Interestingly, the energy is stored in a separate lightweight lithium-iron-phosphate battery rather than the Vision EQXX’s main battery with its capacity of just under 100 kWh. The extra battery juice powers the infotainment, lights, climate blower, and other ancillaries. Together with its partners, Mercedes says is working towards transferring the solar-harvested power into the EV’s main battery.
It should be noted Mercedes won’t be the first automaker to put a solar roof on a production car since Hyundai has been selling one since 2019. Going back in time, the second-generation Audi A8 (D2) had one in 1999 as part of the warm weather package in North America. In other words, a photovoltaic roof is not a groundbreaking tech, but it looks like it’s about to finally become more widespread.