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article imageToyota tests solar panels on roof of its Prius plug-in hybrid

By Ken Hanly     Jul 5, 2019 in Technology
Toyota will begin testing a solar roof on its plug-in hybrid Prius that it claims can add as much as 44.5 kilometers of range to the car in one day.
The solar roof panel
The solar cells are being manufacture by Sharp. They are just 0.03 mm thick yet deliver around 860 watts of power. They can even charge the car when it is being driven. Testing is to begin on public roads later this month. However, there is word when it will be made commercially available. Wikipedia notes: "Sharp Solar, a subsidiary of Sharp Electronics, is a solar energy products company owned by Sharp Corporation and based in Osaka, Japan."
According to a recent article the solar roofs will be offered only in Europe and Japan for now: "Sun power only amplifies the eco-car cred of one of the greenest 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. The technology will only be offered in the Japan and European versions of the car -- at least initially."
Solar roof panels have been tried before by Toyota
Back in 2010 Toyota sold panels that could be used to recharge the car's auxiliary battery that powers secondary systems. The difference is that these new panels are much more efficient. They can produce almost five times as much as the earlier panels and give more than seven times the increase in range.
Toyota has no purely electric powered vehicles at present
These solar roofs will be for Toyota's plug-in hybrids for now. Toyota claims that its battery production capacity can produce a large number of hybrids that will reduce carbon emissions more than it it had produced a smaller number of purely electric vehicles. However, last month Toyota announced it would produce an all-electric drive train platform with Subaru. This means that an all-electric Toyota could happen in time.
Solar roofs on cars problematic
The amount of space for panels on the roof of a car is quite limited so that the output is minor compared to what you could get by placing them other places such as the roof of a building. However, a few companies are experimenting with the panels. The startup Lightyear intends delivering its "solar car" to customers by 2021. Hyundai announced plans to install solar roofs on select cars next year. The appended video looks at some of the problems with using solar panels on the roofs and other areas of cars. Perhaps they would be more helpful on the roofs of tractor trailers or even large buses.
More about Toyota, Toyota prius, car solar roof panels
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