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Will Your Next Prius Be Solar-Powered?

Posted at Fri, Jul 19, 2019 2:00 PM

There’s a universal concern shared among most electric car drivers, and that’s running out of power. Fortunately, Toyota is working toward a solution for that by testing a Prius outfitted with solar panels. Collaborating with the Japanese government agency NEDO (New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization) and Sharp Corporation, the automaker is going to commence with trials on public roads starting at the end of this month. This concept could be a gamechanger in the hybrid and electric car market, and if you’re interested in learning more, we here at Westbury Toyota have put together a quick, in-depth look at the solar powered Prius project.

From Conception to Realization

As David Grossman of Popular Mechanics explains, these new tests for the solar powered Prius have been in the works for three years. NEDO established the Vehicle Strategy Committee, with the primary focus of developing solar-powered vehicles. To that end came the partnership with Sharp Corporation, which designed the high-efficiency solar panels for the car. This is not the first solar powered project undertaken by Toyota; in 2016, the automaker released the Japan exclusive Prius PHV, which had solar cells. The new upcoming trials for the solar powered Prius will include more solar cells, as well as some additional solar technology. These trials are meant to determine just how much the solar panels can enhance fuel efficiency and cruising distance when used alongside high-efficiency solar batteries.

How Does It All Work?

The solar panels used in this new project are quite thin. In fact, they are only around 0.03 millimeters (mm) thick, describes Trevor Mogg of Digital Trends, and that thinness allows these panels to be placed around curved parts of the car, including the hood and the rear hatch door – in addition to the roof. As noted above, this is not the first solar powered car experiment done by Toyota, and this current version is able to convert solar energy at 34 percent efficiency, which is quite a leap from the 22.5 percent the previous version (Prius PHV) was capable of. This improvement came about in large part by increasing the surface area the solar panels are able to cover, leading to an improvement in power generation that is nearly five times that of the Prius PHV.

While this is all still in a developmental testing stage, it’s been found that after being parked in the sun all day, a solar powered Prius could generate enough power to grant the vehicle an additional 27 miles of range, which is almost seven times what it was capable of without the solar panels. The rated power generation output was recorded at an impressive 860 watts (W).

A considerable boost in power generation output is not the only benefit of this solar powered Prius demonstration. In addition, it has a system that will charge the battery when it’s both parked and being driven. This system will also help to substantially boost fuel efficiency and cruising range alongside the solar panels.

The Future Is Solar

Toyota has long been a proponent of finding green solutions to environmental issues created by the automobile industry, and these solar powered Prius trials are another step in that direction. By boosting the driving range and fuel efficiency of an already efficient car, Toyota is proving that environmentally friendly change is possible. Electric cars with improved range and decreased fuel consumption will revolutionize the hybrid/electric car market, and because we’re under the Toyota banner this is something we’re both proud and excited about! If you’ve been thinking about making the switch to a green car but still have some questions, please don’t hesitate to call us or pay us a visit. We’ll be more than happy to fill you in on all Toyota’s super-efficient options.

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