New Toyota Prius To Get Solar Panels As "Symbolic Gesture"

Illustration for article titled New Toyota Prius To Get Solar Panels As Symbolic Gesture

Toyota plans to install solar panels on the new Toyota Prius hybrid as a response to a "growing demand for green cars," reports Reuters. The panels will be supplied by Kyocera and would be able to power part of the air-conditioning as a "symbolic gesture" as it's "very difficult to power much more than that with solar energy." Yes, despite solar power not being "seen as a viable solution to power cars," you've got to give the super number one best awesome automaker from the land of the rising sun credit for trying to make that tint of marketing around the brand glow ever more green. More below the jump.

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"But solar power is not seen as a viable solution to power cars. Solar panels are expensive due to rising silicon prices and storing energy is difficult, the source said. It was unknown how much the solar panels on the new Prius cars would cost, or how many solar-mounted versions Toyota would build."

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We're next expecting it to start using soybeans in the seat cushions — you know, to make it even more green. True, they'll have to work with Ford on that one — but they've done it before. You know, for the children. [Reuters via The Guardian]

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DISCUSSION

"Storing the energy is difficult?" Hello? Big expensive battery pack under the seat, does anybody remember that? That's what makes it a hybrid, remember?

I read about a guy who attached a conventional solar panel to the roof of his Prius; he says it gives him about eight free miles per tankful. If you're going through 400 miles per week, that's 400 miles for free at the end of the year. Granted, that isn't a huge savings, but the operational life span of your typical photovoltaic panel is measured in decades. It will eventually pay for itself, and the payback period gets shorter and shorter as fuel prices increase. Not only that, but batteries really, really prefer slow, gentle discharges and recharges - every amp the panel generates smoothes out the use and recharge profile on the battery pack, which could effectively make it last significantly longer. I don't see the downside here.

Wake up, Toyota. Make the next Prius a wagon with lots of nice, flat roof for a bigger panel. Stick one on the hood, too. You guys are supposed to be smart, act like it.