We may be a long way away from solar powered electric vehicles the likes of which Lightyear is trying to build, yet some larger car companies are starting to toy with the technology in some novel ways. The German luxury car manufacturer Audi is partnering with Chinese solar company Hanergy to integrate solar cells into future vehicles, hoping to embed their solar cells in upcoming panoramic roofs.
Right now, the plan is not for the cells to supply power directly to the vehicle's battery, but rather to serve as a power source for the car's air conditioning system. This will give the car more range as the a/c system will not also be drawing from the battery. The Prius has a similar system in its Prius Prime model. According to Fred Lambert of Electrek, "we estimated that the solar cells on the Prius Prime’s roof could generate enough power to add about ~2 miles of range during the day. And of course, that’s highly dependent on where you are in the world and where you park your car."
Audi will likely continue to develop this technology as solar power generation becomes more technically sophisticated and efficient. We could see the first prototype Audi roofs completed as soon as the end of the year.