|Typical layout of a CIGS solar cell (Univ. Strathclyde)|
Nikkei. Honda Motor is entering the market for solar cells designed for use in households and also plans to promote their use in vehicles, according to a report in the Nihon Keizai Shimbun.
Honda is building a ¥10-billion (US$86.5-million) factory to begin mass production in fiscal 2007 of solar cells made an inexpensive thin-membrane non-silicon metal compound developed by Honda engineering. The Honda solar panels, first announced in 2002, feature a light-absorbing layer formed by a compound made of copper, indium, gallium and diselenium (CIGS).
Thin-film solar cells based on CIGS (Cu(In,Ga)Se2) absorbers are among the leading devices which are expected to lower the costs for photovoltaic energy conversion. Other companies working with CIGS cells include Shell Solar and Würth.
Early Honda CIGS module prototypes had a maximum output of 112 W at dimensions of 1,367 × 802 × 46 mm. Honda is working to improve the efficiency.
Honda’s solar cells will likely sell for some 1.5 million yen each, 20%-30% less than silicon-made cells, according to the report.
The new plant will initially have an annual capacity to produce about 30 megawatts worth of solar cells, enough for 10,000 households a year. Initially, the company aims to market them only in Japan. But it will later sell them in overseas markets, eyeing mainly North America and Europe, where demand is expected to surge in the future.
Honda is also considering a scheme that would use solar cells to power a home electrolysis unit for the production of hydrogen for vehicle refueling. Honda’s current prototype home hydrogen energy systems rely on natural gas reforming. (Earlier post.)
|Honda’s prototype solar-powered electrolysis unit for hydrogen generation.|
Honda combined its CIGS solar cells with a Honda-developed compact electrolysis unit that uses a new Ruthenium-based catalyst in a prototype at its Torrance, California facility.
The prototype solar-powered electrolysis unit produces hydrogen at a rate of 2 normal cubic meters per hour (Nm3/hr).