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(Pocket-lint) - German car manufacturer Audi has partnered up with Alta Devices, a subsidiary of Chinese solar-cell producer, Hanergy, to develop a thin solar film layer to be installed in car roofs.

Audi says the first prototype of this new product will be available by the end of the year.

The initial aim is to integrate the thin solar film cells into a panoramic glass roof, but the long-term goal is to have the entire roof covered in the cells. The cells will be able to attract enough sunlight to power the electric power system of the car, and ultimately extend its driving range.

The energy could alternatively be used to power interior comforts such as heated seats or air conditioning, features that currently derive power from the car's battery.

Alta DevicesYour future electric Audi could come with a solar roof to extend its range image 2

Audi says it could one day be possible for the solar cells to directly charge the battery, minimising the number of stops you'd need to make at a recharging station on a long journey, or reduce the amount of time the car needs to be plugged in at home.

The solar cells Audi intends to use don't just need perfect sunlight to function, as Alta Devices says they can work just as well in low-light, but high temperature conditions.

Dr. Ding Jian, Senior VP of Hanergy Thin Film Power Group Ltd said: This partnership with Audi is Alta Devices' first cooperation with a high-end auto brand."

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"By combining Alta's continuing breakthroughs in solar technology and Audi's drive toward a sustainable mobility of the future, we will shape the solar car of the future."

Writing by Max Langridge. Originally published on 23 August 2017.