Toyota is experimenting with sun power to fuel the Prius, making its bestselling green car even “greener.” The automaker is experimenting with top cover solar panels to run the vehicle almost exclusively on solar power. The trial is part of an ongoing goal by Toyota, starting in Japan. The system generates enough power to drive the Prius PHV for approximately 35 miles.
The company is running the trial on public roads through February in conjunction with solar cell maker Sharp Crop. Under a Japanese-government backed initiative called the “New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization.”
Toyota has already manufactured a Prius with solar panels, but the technology is offered only in Japan as an option for the PHV model. The vehicle is available in the United States as a plug-in vehicle known as the Prius Prime.
The new vehicle significantly affects performance. The new vehicle allows to charge while the car is parked or being driven.
The current Prius PHV generates approximately 180W of electricity while the car is parked, which is enough to power less than 4 miles of battery-only driving. The new system delivers 860W, nearly 5 times the energy it currently allows for. That makes for about 28 miles if the car is charged while parked, or 35 miles if charged while driving.
Toyota is experimenting with more efficient solar cells, but that may require using more panels. The roof, hood and rear window are layered with black solar cells that are very thin. Because they are so thin, they can be form-fitted to the body of the vehicle and curved.
Toyota said that the test will help to determine how much solar energy will boost the driving range and fuel efficiency of electric vehicles.