Hanergy is a large Chinese company that specializes in making advanced thin film solar panels. In a twist on Elon Musk’s plan to morph Tesla Motors into an energy company that sells rooftop systems, Hanergy wants to go in the opposite direction. It wants to use it expertise in solar panels to launch a foray into the automotive business.

Hanergy solar powered cars

On July 2, it launched 4 solar powered vehicles at a gala ceremony outside its headquarters in Beijing. Called “Disruptive Innovations Drive the Future,” it provided a showcase for the Hanergy Solar R sports car, along with the Hanergy Solar O, Hanergy Solar L, and Hanergy Solar A, all of which are targeted at different segments of the automotive market.

Li Hejun, CEO of Hanergy Holding Group, told the more than 4,000 people who attended the event about the advantages of thin-film solar cells. They are light in weight and flexibile, which makes it possible for them to be integrated into a variety of products such as cars, unmanned aerial vehicles, mobiles, backpacks and clothes. The full solar power vehicles making their debut showcase the latest achievements of Hanergy’s mobile energy strategy, Li said.

With a conversion rate of 31.6%, Hanergy’s gallium arsenide (GaAs) dual-junction solar cell was awarded with a World Record Certificate by the World Record Association at the launch event. The technology had previously been recognized by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) of the United States for its world’s highest conversion rate on January 5, 2016.

As Hanergy’s full solar power vehicles acquire power directly from the sun, they do not depend on charging posts and thus have no need to bother with “distance per charge” anymore, making “zero charging” possible during medium and short distance journeys. Breaking the bottleneck of poor practicality of previous solar-powered vehicles, the four launched by Hanergy are the first full thin-film solar power vehicles that can be commercialized, redefining new energy vehicles.

According to Dr. Gao Weimin, vice president of Hanergy Holding Group and CEO of its solar vehicle division, the four solar power vehicles are integrated with flexible GaAs thin-film solar cells, covering 3.5 to 7.5 square meters respectively. Given six hours of sunlight, the thin-film solar cells on the vehicle are able to generate eight to ten kilowatt-hours of power a day. That’s enough to let them travel about 50 miles. That is sufficient range for most daily commuting needs.

The vehicles can recharge themselves while driving. For long distance trips, they can also be plugged in to a conventional EV charger. The lithium batteries in the vehicles have a maximum range of about 200 miles on a full charge.

“The reason I’m here is because I very much believe in what Hanergy is doing by making a car totally powered by solar energy.” said American renewable energy expert Dr. Woodrow W. Clark II, who was present the ceremony. In his view, the full solar power vehicle developed by Hanergy is the symbol of a green industrial revolution.

Hanergy Holding Group is a multinational clean energy company and the world’s leading thin film solar power company. Established in 1994, it has branches throughout China as well as all 7 continents. Its core businesses included hydropower, wind power and thin-film solar power.

We have almost no details on the vehicles Hanergy says it will build, but the idea of getting a portion of the energy needed to power electric cars directly from the sun is intriguing.