The transportation network is being revolutionised by electric vehicles. TNO is working on making solar-powered transportation a reality. These vehicles need a sustainable energy source of electricity. Solar cells and modules are a solution, not just for plug-in charging but on the vehicle body itself. 

More info about solar powered transportation?

Contact Bonna Newman


More than 50 million electric vehicles are expected to be on the road by 2025. To contribute to the energy transition, they will need sustainable electricity sources. Integrating solar cells and modules into the car body itself (VIPV) can potentially offer: 

  • up to 20,000 km/year pure solar-powered driving
  • up to 23%-40% fewer plug-ins at grid charging points
  • the possibility of no grid charges in the summer
  • as much as €150 - €200 direct electricity savings each year
  • reduce the CO2 emissions by 250 kg/year
  • make vehicles a smart and integral part of the power grid and distribution network

These numbers are based on the case study Amsterdam; more southern countries will see even more attractive numbers. 


TNO is leading the way in accurately quantifying the potential benefits of on-board PV for solar powered transportation. TNO has coupled its proprietary BIGEYE solar yield modelling software, electric vehicle energy demand models, and a database of real driver usage profiles to create a VIPV Energy Flow Model (VEFM) to be used to better understand the benefits of on-board PV for the electric transport revolution.

Solar panels on a truck

Additionally, we also use this model to optimize performance, system design, CO2 emissions reductions, and improve use logistics such that on-board PV will have the largest impact. This work is being conducted for passenger cars, trucks, buses, and other electric vehicles and additionally is helping to inform the public and policy makers about how VIPV can contribute to a cleaner and more sustainable future.


At TNO, we are solving the challenges of integrating PV into the car body, as well as making sure the technology is as effective as possible. To do this, the expected power generated by the PV must be computed at every moment depending on the local illumination conditions (sun, clouds, buildings, and shade) as well as the position, speed, and power demand of the vehicle.

This requires combing multi-disciplinary expertise from across TNO in solar, electric power trains, and transportation logistics as well as working with our partners to create realistic user profiles, collect real-time vehicle centered weather conditions, and analyze the power that can be generated by a curved and moving PV system. With the VEFM, we can say how much on-board PV can change the way we drive and use our cars.

We are also using this tool to look to the future to better understand how solar powered transportation will be compatible and accelerate new technologies and transportation paradigms like car sharing and autonomous vehicles.


We work with IM Efficiency,  TU/e, University of Twente, Sono Motors, Lightyear, and TRENS Solar Trains to explore the possibilities of solar powered transportation. We think about the vehicle as not only a private autonomous transportation mode, but also as a relevant building block in a smart energy systems.

TNO, TKI Urban Energy, and RVO, are leading Activity 1.2 of the IEA PVPS Task 17 focuses on identifying the requirements, barriers, and solutions for vehicle integrated PV on a global scale. Task 17 is an international collaboration with Japan, Germany, France, Australia, Austria, Spain, China, Morocco, and Switzerland focused on making solar-powered vehicles a reality all over the world.

Our work

The first solar-powered passenger car: solar cells in the bodywork

The Lightyear One, one of the world’s first solar powered cars, is expected in 2022. Lightyear has teamed up with TNO to develop technology to integrate more than 800 solar cells into the roof, bonnet,... Read more
Our work

Solar energy in road surfaces and crash barriers

Integrating solar panels into roads and crash barriers are solutions for the production of large-scale and invisible solar energy without the need for additional space. The idea is therefore to give as... Read more
Our work

Noise barriers producing solar energy

For a long time, it has been technically possible to install solar cells in noise barriers, but the cost of doing so is high while efficiency is relatively low. TNO has now succeeded in devising and building... Read more
Our work

First solar-powered cars on the road this year

The electric car has made a breakthrough thanks to its ever-growing range. Lightyear One – one of the first commercially available car with a substantial contribution of solar power – makes the next breakthrough... Read more
Our work

Mass customization: affordable, tailor-made solar energy on a large scale

Affordable manufacturing of tailor-made products on a large scale. It may seem contradictory, but this is the future of solar energy. TNO has developed a production method for manufacturing solar modules... Read more
Our work

Solar panel efficiency continues to improve as costs fall

Solar energy is affordable and reliable. The familiar panels, generally installed on roofs, have been achieving excellent returns for years – yet there is still much to be gained. TNO predicts that the... Read more
Our work

New technologies make PV more versatile

With a global market share of 95%, crystalline silicon still forms the basis for most photovoltaic (PV) solar panels. But the potential for further improvements in performance and cost is huge. With a... Read more
Our work

Growing potential for solar energy on buildings and infrastructure

The area that can be used to generate solar energy in the Netherlands is large and growing. TNO is developing solar energy concepts for optimal integration into the built environment: from roofs, facades... Read more

Dr Bonna Newman

  • PV Modules