Toyota plans to install solar panels on its next-generation Prius hybrid cars, becoming the first major automaker to use solar power for a vehicle.

The Nikkei said Toyota would equip solar panels on the roof of the high-end version of the Prius when it redesigns the gasoline-electric hybrid car early next year, and the power generated by the system would be used for the air conditioning.

Toyota plans to use solar panels made by Kyocera.

Toyota remodeled the Prius with an improved hybrid system in 2003 and is expected to launch a third-generation version by next year.

The only folks they have to stay ahead of – as far as I can see – is Honda. Though, I’m still interested in seeing the VW diesel-hybrid as delivered.

Yes, solar panels on the roof are a natural for my neck of the high desert.




  1. bobbo says:

    You’ve all heard the joke of the US Space Program spending millions to find a ball point pen to write upside down in space thru grease? The Russians when faced with the same issues decided to use a pencil.

    Likewise, solar/electric is fine but I really like the compressed air car because it is so,so, simple. So simple its not attractive to high tech development departments. And probably because its from France–and maybe India but the good websites with the technical info are from the French Innovator.

    Electric would be good if it becomes the “plug-in” type that would backup the general power grid. Always “neat” to get a technology to solve 3-4 problems instead of just one.

  2. god says:

    Toyota’s already ahead of you – on the last paragraph, too. Just not in the U.S..

  3. MikeN says:

    This is starting to be a parody. What next little windmills on the bumper?

  4. Li says:

    The Aptera has a significant lead at the moment; plug in hybrid, ~300mpg after the batteries deplete a bit, solar panels on the roof.

    http://www.aptera.com

    I hate to be a fanboy, but big-auto is not going to give us the future of transport, it’s going to be a small company that is not invested in the old, failed business models.

  5. bobbo says:

    #2–god==I checked again and don’t see a reference to compressed air. Third generation? I don’t think a cars skin is big enough to run an a/c compressor, could some kind of piezo-nanotube cooler be in the works or is this a solar panel that runs a fan while the car is parked?

    Love the details.

  6. Old Geezer says:

    #1 You’ve all heard the joke of the US Space Program spending millions to find a ball point pen to write upside down in space thru grease?

    I don’t know about space, but I do know that had pens here on earth with compressed gas ink pen cartidges (back in the 70’s) that let you write upside down and on various surfaces. The were advertized as Space Pens or something like that. I actually did buy a couple and they did work upside down as advertized.

  7. god says:

    I know, I know, you can’t bring yourself to read newspapers headquartered in NYC.

    I’ve already sent the url to Eideard. I was referring to your last paragraph.

  8. smartalix says:

    It’s about time. The Maybach 62 has 60W of solar panels in its roof to let you run the AC while parked. Why nobody used it to extend the range or provide emergency/alternate charging to an electric or hybrid car is beyond me.

  9. Patrick says:

    “and the power generated by the system would be used for the air conditioning.”

    About f-ing time. Excuse my language but for those living in the sun belt, how many times have come back to your parked car on a summer day to die of heat. You could run the AC while out of your car. Good move!

  10. J says:

    # 3 MikeN

    No Mike. Windmills would cause drag. Duh!

    What’s wrong with you? Are you afraid that people won’t need you to pump their gas anymore?

    The “parody” is reading what asshats like you post when someone has a good idea that would go against your wing nut “must do everything possible to consume and waist” attitude.

  11. Ah_Yea says:

    Here are two very informative articles about the Air Car.
    The first link has a video at the bottom of the article which is worth watching.
    http://tinyurl.com/2szuzd
    http://tinyurl.com/yudg6x

    This technology is apparently mature enough for the mass market.

    The reason we won’t be seeing these cars in the US is because they are made to be very, very inexpensive and therefore they don’t stand up to the US safety standards. It would be very easy for some car company to put this technology into a package which could sell in the US.

  12. Ah_Yea says:

    I also like the Aptera, and #4 Li’s link is excellent.

    The problem I have with the Aptera is that it only has 3 wheels (although they are working on a 4 wheel model).

    Most 3 wheeled vehicles have two powered wheels in the back with the one steering wheel in front. They do this for a reason. When the road gets slippery you absolutely need to have enough traction to overcome the resistance of the front wheel in the snow. I live where there is plenty of winter snow and ice, and one driving wheel pushing 2 front wheels just won’t work.

  13. Patrick says:

    #11 “It would be very easy for some car company to put this technology into a package which could sell in the US.”

    I’d like to see that but, getting them up to US safety standards would probably add too much weight to make them viable.

  14. chuck says:

    The Register gets a bit more detail on the story here:

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/07/07/prius_solar_panel/

    Basically, the solar panels will be able to provide part of the power for the A/C. Mostly it’s a PR stunt.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with a PR stunt. It certainly would help if everyone who had A/C in their home were to stick a few solar panels on the roof.

  15. I have to say the idea of putting expensive solar panels on the roof only to power the air conditioner really pisses me off. Though, it probably does open the door to simple hacks to charge the battery.

    Personally, I have no idea why they didn’t follow the lead of these guys.

    http://www.solarelectricalvehicles.com/

  16. Patrick says:

    #17 The panels can’t even fully power the A/C. The effect on driving range is not even worth considering…

  17. Li says:

    #12 Ah, but most past 3 wheeled vehicles had the engine in the front; the aptera has it in the back, right over the (very wide) rear wheel. It should have good traction in the snow given that design feature, but I’ll wait to see some simple tests done.

  18. MikeN says:

    #10 yeah windmills won’t work, just like I doubt whether these solar panels are worth the cost. These all look like vanity.

  19. Ah_Yea says:

    I just had a thought. I wonder if someone could produce an Air Car knockoff and sell them as a kit car here in the US.

    Kit cars can be sold without a lot of the mandated factory stuff.

    #19, Li. I would be interested to see how the traction holds up as well. Maybe they can make it work.

  20. Li says:

    By keeping the vehicle cool, solar panels will prevent the need for a big energy drain on start up; cooling the car down. It does save energy, just in an oblique way.

  21. #18 – Patrick,

    #17 The panels can’t even fully power the A/C. The effect on driving range is not even worth considering…

    Perhaps true, if you drive continuously during all sunlight hours. However, if you park in the sun, you should be able to charge quite a lot of the battery in a few hours.

    The site below claims they can drive the car up to 20 miles on sunshine alone. That’s not bad. They did add another battery to their vehicle though.

    http://www.solarelectricalvehicles.com/

  22. GF says:

    I’ve heard rumors that they have started puting solar panels on top of cargo truck containers to run the coolers, there is about 37 m^2 (400 ft^2) of area to work with.

  23. raddad says:

    #23
    They don’t say up to 20 miles on sunshine, only that the total electrical miles might be up to 20 miles. I don’t expect that a mere 60 watts of solar cells would add more than a mile of that. Even 8 hours in full sunshine would be less than 0.5 kwh.

  24. Steven Long says:

    @20
    They might look like vanity, but they may be a decent step (or attempt). They get used to integrating them into the car. They could advance the solar technology. I think that combined alternative solutions are the future. Even if each of these cars only gets a minimal gain (we’ll say 0.5% of their energy comes from solar), you aggregate that over millions of vehicles it starts to become a bit more worthwhile.

    I say it’s an interesting attempt.

  25. BubbaRay says:

    I wonder how well the solar panels will stand up to a hailstorm? Hello, insurance / replacement invoice.

    The space pen R&D wasn’t paid for by NASA. It was the invention of Paul Fisher, of Fisher Pens.

  26. MikeN says:

    #26, at the end of the day, you have .5% of energy, at more than .5% of the cost.

  27. B. Dog says:

    Some folks at MIT say they can put solar collectors in windows real soon now.


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