Sunday, June 26, 2016

Next-generation Toyota Prius has solar electric drive

The next-generation Prius plug-in hybrid gets a little greener with a the rooftop solar panel for recharging the batteries. While Toyota already produces a Prius with a rooftop solar system, that panel was only used to drive the air conditioning system as apparently Toyota found it to risky to integrate this new technology into the drive system.

Sun power only amplifies the eco-car cred of one of the most efficient vehicles. The cells charge the car even when it is parked and can boost fuel efficiency by as much as 10 percent by allowing longer electric-only driving times.
Unfortunately for U.S. fans of all things green, the technology will only be offered in the Japan and European versions of the car -- at least initially. But Koji Toyoshima, chief engineer of the Prius plug-in and its standard Prius hybrid sibling, says Toyota aims to introduce the panels Stateside too. The problem: The Japan market solar panels are laid on reinforced glass sheeting that doesn’t pass America’s more stringent rollover crash tests.
Toyota doesn’t have the technology to laminate the photo-voltaic cells in a resin that won’t shatter dangerously during a rollover, Toyoshima said. But the company is working on a solution so that it can introduce the solar panels to the U.S. version of the car during its life-cycle.
In Japan, the plug-in Prius will be called the Prius PHV. Toyota has not announced whether the solar panels will be standard or optioned here.
Various uses
Aside from recharging the batteries during a standstill, the solar panels also supply electricity to accessories such as lamps, power windows and air conditioning when the car is running, Toyota says. As Toyota whittles down their cost, Toyoshima said the company hopes to introduce the solar-powered technology to other hybrids across the lineup.

Advancements in solar technology have made solar ready to be used as an additional power source for cars.
Tesla recently made a bid to purchase SolarCity - a hint that Tesla may have similar plans.

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