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July 14 -- The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) and Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO) are requesting information on technical and commercial challenges and opportunities for vehicle-integrated photovoltaic systems. Responses to this RFI must be submitted by 5:00pm (ET) on August 22, 2022.

The term (field of) vehicle-integrated photovoltaics (VIPV) designates the mechanical, electrical and design-technical integration of photovoltaic modules into vehicles. The photovoltaic (PV) modules integrate seamlessly into the vehicle exterior and electric system architecture to supply power to on-board electric loads or batteries. VIPV modules serve dual functionality by generating electric energy while replacing other structural parts of the vehicle, like the roof, the hood, the doors, the windows, the windshield, the sunroof, or other glass components. In simpler cases, referred to as vehicle-added or attached PV (VAPV), more traditional individual PV modules are attached to the existing vehicle structure serving only the energy generation role.
 
VIPV and VAPV have the potential to represent a competitive value proposition in various transportation sectors. Integrating solar generation directly into the vehicle could increase the performance of vehicles, in terms of range, or displace some battery capacity, thus improving the vehicle’s carbon dioxide (CO2) balance. This is especially true for electric vehicles where PV systems can provide an additional source for battery charging and contribute directly to the vehicle propulsion and other vehicle loads. However, even for non-electric vehicles, PV systems could be utilized to supply power to various auxiliary electric loads and functions, therefore reducing fuel consumption. This could be of high value especially in more specialized commercial vehicles and applications, like refrigeration trucks. Electrical integration could be quite seamless as vehicles are primarily direct current (DC) electrical systems and many of the vehicle loads are DC powered. This would reduce inefficiencies that result from converting the DC electricity generated by the solar modules into alternating current (AC), as it is done by the more traditional solar systems. DC to AC conversion could only take place where needed by the specific loads (e.g., the traction inverter of electric vehicles).  
 
The purpose of this RFI is to solicit information and feedback from a broad range of stakeholders, including industry, market experts, regulators, researchers, academia, government agencies, and other stakeholders on the current state of the VIPV/VAPV market and industry, on issues related to VIPV/VAPV technologies and markets, as well as on opportunities and barriers for VIPV/VAPV to inform strategic priorities for EERE.

Request for Information Categories and Questions

Category 1: State of the Industry and Key Domestic Markets
1. What market segments or subsegments are more promising for vehicle PV systems (passenger vehicles, recreational vehicles, lightweight utility vehicles, medium- and heavy-duty utility vehicles, trucks, buses, transport refrigeration units, marine vehicle, or other)? Please elaborate why you assess certain segment(s) as more promising and how each specific segment aligns with commercialized VIPV/VAPV products?
2. What is the largest market opportunity for VIPV/VAPV, and why?
3. Are there certain products or components that could create an opportunity for domestic manufacturing?
4. Establish ways in which solar generated electricity could be used in a system to enhance vehicle performance, increase security, increase safety, provide low-cost cooling, provide benefits, or be used as an independent - dual use feature for a vehicle operator.

Category 2: Product Requirements
1. What vehicle PV products are available in the market?
2. What are the key product requirements for a given market segment? Please define the market segment and consider aspects such as performance, weight, lifetime, reliability (including durability, vibrations, etc.), (specific) code compliance, supply chain integration, design process integration, aesthetics, installation process, installed system costs, etc.
3. What PV cell technologies would be more appropriate for VIPV applications, e.g. traditional mono/poly-Si, IBC, HJT, a-Si, multi-junction, III-V, CIGS, OPV, other? Do different technologies align better with specific applications or market segments?
4. What are the key integration requirements and challenges with respect to structural integration, electrical systems integration (electrical wiring, energy conversion, power electronics, MPPT tracking, system controls, etc.) or other integration aspects, e.g.maintenance/service/repair?
5. What are challenges to vehicle PV integration with respect to the vehicle material performance requirements and rating metrics established by standard organizations or by end-user expectations? Such standards and metrics could relate to safety, acoustic emissions, vibrations, recycling of vehicle components, reliability/robustness/durability, longevity, functionality, cost, aesthetics, etc.
6. How well or poorly do current performance requirements and standards align with vehicle PV applications? Do current standards need to be updated or are new standards needed?
7. What requirements or other considerations exist that relate to vehicle operation, maintenance, repairs, or replacements of VIPV/VAPV systems as well as insurance?

Category 3: Key Barriers and Perceptions
1. What are the barriers to the adoption and commercialization of VIPV/VAPV technologies?
2. What are barriers to collaboration/partnering between solar and vehicle industries on VIPV/VAPV technologies and businesses?
3. Are there additional related barriers impeding the adoption of VIPV/VAPV technologies?

Category 4: Research, Development, Demonstration, & Commercialization (RDD&C) Needs and Opportunities
1. What limitations exist in current modeling of the production cost, installed system cost, and energy yields for vehicle PV technologies and systems?
2. What limitations exist in current evaluations and standardized calculations for vehicle PV systems applications with respect to vehicle performance, energy produced, and carbon emission reduction?
3. What vehicle PV technology challenges could be addressed by additional research, development, and demonstration?
4. What are the challenges to demonstrating and validating the durability and performance of vehicle PV technologies and systems?
5. What would be the key challenges for mobile solar + energy storage systems with the potential for vehicle-to-home or vehicle-to-grid operation?

Category 5: Stakeholder Engagement Processes
1. Where do information and knowledge gaps exist in the industry as well as regulatory agencies?
2. What stakeholder groups should be involved in conversations on VIPV/VAPV product requirements, barriers, and RDD&C needs?
3. Outside of the typical outreach mechanisms (RFIs, workshops), are there other programs or events that you would recommend to effectively engage all impacted and interested stakeholders?
 
RFI: https://eere-exchange.energy.gov/FileContent.aspx?FileID=a40f9e72-c093-4c51-8156-099463825f8b
RFI notice: https://eere-exchange.energy.gov/Default.aspx#FoaId0397a640-ab19-447c-904f-a83e92b65b46

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