Solar Roof Maker Asola Forms Manufacturing JV

The moon roof was the must-have feature of yesterday, but the necessary automotive accessory of tomorrow could be the solar roof. German Asola, maker of solar power systems for automotive applications (including solar roofs for cars), announced today that it has signed a memorandum of understanding to form a joint venture with Korean electronic and automotive component maker Q&Tech / Yongsan to establish a solar module manufacturing plant in South Korea with an annual capacity of 30 megawatts. The plant will use Asola’s solar production processes and will give Asola a partner that already has strong ties to the auto industry.

Asola is 25 percent owned by Quantum Technologies, an automotive technology developer that has moved away from its gasoline engine pursuits and is now the drivetrain provider for the Karma plug-in hybrid luxury vehicle from Fisker Automotive, in which it is a major stakeholder.

And yes, the Karma will sport a solar roof from Asola, which will power a climate-control system to keep the $80,000 four-door sports car cool when parked in energizing sun, ’cause that leather interior can get hot sitting in a parking lot.

The big vehicle manufacturers are starting to ponder putting solar panels on the roofs of their next-gen vehicles. There have been several reports that the 2010 Prius will sport solar panels that would help power the air conditioning system.

Startups are also trying to get into this emerging market, with San Antonio, Texas-based Sunrise Solar recently announcing its Solar Roof for cars, though details are scant.

Financial details of the joint venture were not disclosed, nor a timeline for construction, but the companies expect the plant to generate $100 million in revenue annually once it’s up and running. Asola has been amassing solar supply deals over the last two years, signing a long-term 155 megawatt silicon cell deal with Ersol and a $17 million solar module contract with Sunworx.

Image courtesy of Fisker Automotive.