18 February 2019
Hanergy's thin film solar panels were installed on a Aston  Martin race car. Photo:
Hanergy's thin film solar panels were installed on a Aston Martin race car. Photo:

Hanergy’s solar car ambition: achievable or starry-eyed dream?

Hanergy Thin Film Power (HTF, 00566.HK) chairman Li Hejun surprised media on Monday when he pledged to launch three to five solar car models by October.

But industry experts doubt if such an ambitious plan is workable at all with the current solar power technology.

Last month, HTF fully acquired gallium-arsenide (GaAs) solar developer Alta Devices. Its thin film solar technology has a conversion efficiency that is considered the highest in the world. HTF hopes to develop its own solar cars using this technology.

According to Hanergy’s design, a solar car, weighing about a ton, that is placed under average light intensity for four hours will able to run for 80-100 kilometers under normal conditions.

Solar-powered vehicles are nothing new. Some public vans in Hong Kong are installed with solar panels on the roof, but these only complement gasoline as a power source.

Eric Cheng Ka-wai, a professor of the Department of Electrical Engineering at Hong Kong Polytechnic University who designed the solar panels used in the public vans, told Ming Pao Daily that solar technology, at its current state, cannot achieve the result predicted by Li.

“The conversion efficiency of the monocrystalline silicon solar panel is around 25 percent. Though the GaAs that HTF possesses has a higher conversion efficiency of around 30.8 percent, the figure is still below 50 percent,” Cheng was quoted as saying.

Therefore, it would be quite hard for a solar car which is solely powered by sunlight, to travel for 60 kilometers or longer continuously, he said.

However, Li remains confident about solar technology and its potential to change the world.

His idea of solar cars looks a bit stretched, and Hanergy would be hard pressed to deliver vehicles comparable to the efficiency of other green cars using more mature technology, such as electric cars and vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

Nevertheless, mobile device charging, another market Li is eyeing, might be a more realistic target.

There will be more than 6 billion mobile phones in use around the world by 2020, the group said, and feeding the power needs of these handsets is a big business.

– Contact us at [email protected]


EJ Insight writer

EJI Weekly Newsletter

Please click here to unsubscribe