Office of Technology Transfer – University of Michigan

Vehicle Solar Concentrator

Technology #3569

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Matthew Ross
Managed By
Keith Hughes
Assistant Director, Physical Sciences & Engineering 734-764-9429


To inspire innovation and bring attention to the use of alternate power sources for automobiles including solar power, many annual or periodic races have been held where solar-powered cars compete. The designs of most of these vehicles include the covering of most every square centimeter of their top surfaces in photovoltaic (PV) solar cells. Typically these cells have employed silicon-based (“Group IV” elemental semiconductors) designs but more recently so-called “Group III-V” semiconductors, or combinations of Group IV and Group III-V materials, have been used. For these competitions, car designs are intended to maximize the possible speed attainable solely through the use of solar power. The total cell collecting area of these cars is approximately 6 square meters and these systems generate between 1.5 and 2 kilowatts of peak power in operation. These power levels are also appropriate for electric or hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs).


Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a vehicle-based solar collector. In particular, the solar collector is comprised of a cylindrical array of concentrator cells, a heat sink coupled to the linear array of concentrator cells, and modules running fore and aft in the car, wherein each of the modules has a parabolic trough mirror that reflects light onto the cylindrical array of concentrator cells. Through the use of these solar collectors, space that is taken up by the solar cells is minimized, while maximizing collected solar energy.

Applications and Advantages


  • Solar collector for vehicles


  • Minimized space required for solar cells
  • More efficient collection of solar energy