Startup Sunday: copper thin film material wins DOE award

Diverging estimates of renewable energy installed


In this installment of Startup Sunday, we have three companies making potentially disruptive innovations in solar and electric vehicles. 

Copper paste to replace silver in solar manufacturing 

The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded $1 million to a company making a splash in solar manufacturing materials, providing funds to Bert Thin Films for their new copper paste material that is designed to replace expensive silver components in solar panels. 

The Louisville, Kentucky-based company has been gathering steam as they secured $1million in funding in early 2019, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission. 

Bert Thin Films said their paste, named CuBert, maintains the durability of silver paste, and can be seamlessly integrated into existing manufacturing processes and equipment in use today by solar panel makers. 

Two-seat solar EVs for car-sharing 

Dutch carmakers Squad Mobility said it plans to roll out small battery-electric vehicles that are intended for car-sharing fleets and mobility-as-a-service. The tiny cars are topped with solar panels to extend their maximum range.

The Squad car would be used for EV ride-sharing.

Image: Squad Mobility

The batteries are swappable, making for a fast recharge when necessary. The “Squad” car, short for solar quadricycle, is expected to be unveiled as a prototype next month, and production is expected last quarter 2022. 

The tiny car tops its speed at 26 mph, and is only 4 feet wide, 5 feet tall, 6.7 feet long. This is not a car for the family road trip, as it has a range of 60 miles. Automatic solar charging extends that range by 12.4 miles a day. 

The company said safety has been a tenet in the design of this vehicle. The tires act as protection bumpers, and sensors enable remote diagnosis of operation condition, charge levels, tire pressure, location, and other features. 

Squad Chief of Design Chris Klok said the future may hold remote control using autonomous technology for the car. 

Plug-and-play solar module from France 

As featured on our global site, French company Supersola has developed a 315 W, half-cut monocrystalline PV module that has an integrated microinverter and is a “plug-and-play” solution. 

Supersola plug-and-play module.

Image: Supersola

The panel can be coupled with two others to total up to a 1 kW residential system, and has a five meter cable that can be connected to a socket. 

“This product is designed for anybody who wants to take the renewable energy step without having to spend too much money and looking for a fast return on investment,” a company spokesperson told pv magazine. “It allows people to immediately start producing and consuming their own electricity.” 

Total efficiency of the kit runs at 18%, and cells are provided by Chinese manufacturer Phono Solar Technology. The manufacturer said an average module can provide roughly 370 kWh per year, an equivalent to the annual consumption of a household’s domestic appliances. 

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