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Toyota May Just Be Warming Up to Electric Cars

In the realm of electric cars, we do not tend to hear a lot from Toyota– like many legacy automobile manufacturers, they have been slow getting on board the electric vehicle bandwagon.  In fact, it does not sound like the company has very much interest in developing all-electric vehicles, instead intent on focusing on hybrids.  But today Toyota has another taken a step in the right direction, announcing the test of new high-efficiency solar cells to be used on their electric cars in the near future. Toyota solar cars may be coming soon.

Toyota Solar Powered Car

Partnering with Sharp and the Japanese national research organization NEDO, Toyota is planning on testing their new solar-powered Prius on public roads later this month.  Trials will take place across various regions to test how it handles different weather and driving situations. 

The new solar system will provide up to 27.7 miles (44.5 kilometers) of additional range each day if it charges only while the vehicle is parked.  If also charging while the vehicle is being driven, the system can add up to 35 miles (56.3 kilometers) of power for both driving and the auxiliary battery which runs secondary systems such as the AC, navigation, and radio.  The fact that the car can charge while on the road is pretty revolutionary, as past versions could not do so.  

The charging system uses a redesigned solar battery film that is only 0.001 inches (0.03 millimeters) thick, which allows it to be placed over a much larger area of the vehicle for increased charging capability.  These cells can reportedly convert solar power at a rate of 34 percent with an 860 W output. 

Not the First Time

Surprisingly enough, this is not the first time that Toyota has used solar panels with their cars.  Back in 2010, Toyota sold solar panels for the Prius which could recharge the auxiliary battery, which powered secondary systems like the air conditioning fans.  Unfortunately, it was a small 50 W panel, and not very powerful.

Then in 2016, an optional roof solar panel was provided for the Prius which also powered the primary battery pack.  The 2016 upgrade could only add up to 2.2 miles (3.5 kilometers) of range to the vehicle per day, though, since it only had 180 W.  This solar-equipped Prius “PHV” (photovoltaic hybrid vehicle) was only available in Japan. 

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