Audi will be giving solar energy a push, adding solar panels to its electric vehicles for extended range and to support sustainability.

This was announced yesterday along with a deal with Alta Devices to add thin-solar cells into a glass roof for Audi EVs that will generate electricity powering the car’s air-conditioning system and seat heaters.

The goal is to produce the first prototype by the end of this year.

Beyond that, the German automaker and the subsidiary of Chinese solar company Hanergy will work on covering almost the entire roof surface of Audi battery electric vehicles with solar cells. That will contribute even more to support per-charge range for the Audi EVs.

Taking an even longer look, the partner companies aim to use the solar power to directly charge the battery pack providing propulsion to the EV.

Alta Devices will be producing the solar cells at its production facility in California. The company says they’ll have efficiency of more than 25 percent while being very thin and flexible. They also do well in varying weather conditions in low light and high temperature.

“That would be a milestone along the way to achieving sustainable, emission-free mobility,” said Audi board member for procurement, Dr. Bernd Martens.

Along with helping to fight climate change, the solar cells will likely help make Audi EVs more competitive in the market.

During the spring, Panasonic unveiled a next-generation solar roof panel that will be option car buyers will be able to purchase for the Toyota Prius Prime. It will have triple the energy generation of previous 50-watt roof panels available on the Toyota.

Rumors abounded that the Tesla Model 3 will have solar panels as an option.

Last month while speaking at the National Governors Association, Tesla CEO Elon Musk put a stop to the rumor. He said that Tesla engineers had looked into it and came to the same conclusion he had – it’s cheaper to charge your electric car from the solar power coming off your roof.

Of course, Tesla would be more than happy to install fashionable solar panels on your roof through its SolarCity subsidiary.

SEE ALSO:  Panasonic Solar Roof Will Energize Toyota Prius Prime in Japan

But the race is on for Audi and its Volkswagen parent company to break through barriers in the EV market that Tesla has dominated. Audi plans to role out three new all-electric e-tron models by 2020.

Range is becoming a decisive issue, as the “Chevy Bolt versus the Tesla Model 3” is demonstrating.

“The range of electric cars plays a decisive role for our customers. Together with Hanergy, we plan to install innovative solar technology in our electric cars that will extend their range and is also sustainable,” Martens said.