2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

Photo via: Hyundai

It seems that more and more big auto manufacturers are neglecting, or completely cutting midsize sedans from their line-up. All in favor of more focus on crossovers and SUV’s. While this seems especially true for domestic brands like Ford and Chevy, Hyundai apparently missed the memo entirely. This is very good news for us, as the Hyundai Sonata has received some serious improvements in 2020. 

It’s never looked better on the inside or out. The refresh brings bold styling and an elegant, feature-packed interior. The most surprising addition though can only be found on the Hybrid model. A roof based solar-panel charging system. It’s a first ever for the South Korean Company that has shown its innovative side more and more in recent years. Frankly, I would have expected this seemingly obvious bit of engineering to come from Tesla first. Though as it stands, the new Cybertruck will offer a solar paneled roof option to increase range by 15 miles per day give or take. 

Why has it taken everyone, even Tesla so long then? well, a number of things make a solar paneled car less ideal than one would initially think. For starters, the surface area on the top of a car isn’t that great. Only about 3-5 square meters on most. So even at high noon, the panel might only produce around 200 watt-hours per square meter. That won’t get a car very far. Even with ideal weather and lots of sun. So up until now, manufacturers like Toyota only offered solar-power that support the AC and electronics, never attempting to tackle adding extra range.

Another major stumbling block was of course the cost. The price of the panels with the necessary wiring, electronics, etc. can stack up. The extra range and fuel savings you’d net wouldn’t even begin to cover the added costs in the life cycle of the vehicle. Thankfully, Hyundai didn’t give up the good fight, and have implemented a solar solution that adds practicality and value to their Sonata Hybrid. Keeping cost down and focusing on adding range over simple auxiliary support. 

According to Hyundai, the mission of the solar roof is not to directly turn the wheels as much as to support the car’s electric power source, lower CO2 emissions and increase fuel efficiency. The actual solar panels are made of a Silicon. This comes at a much lower cost and helps keep the effect subtle. Only standing out as something other than black paint when viewed from up close. Hyundai said that these solar panels could charge the car’s battery between 30-60% by themselves. This could theoretically increase travel distance by 1,300 kilometers each year. Roughly the distance between Los Angeles and Portland OR. That’s no small amount. 

Many car makers have poked around with the possibility of implementing solar power. Hyundai represents one of the very first to successfully integrate a system in their popular sedan. One that’s discreet, affordable and range impacting. While the technology is still a ways off from being truly transformative, Hyundai has boldly pushed the envelope past the point where we’re left wondering if solar will ever be a realistic possibility for cars in the future. 

Starting MSRP: $35,300.00 

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