Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid gets rooftop solar panel |

Automotive

Published on June 20th, 2016 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez

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Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid gets rooftop solar panel

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The next-generation Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid will be a little greener with a rooftop solar panel for recharging the batteries. The use of sun power amplifies the eco credibility of one of the already greenest vehicles in the world. The cells charge the car even when it is parked and can boost fuel efficiency by as much as 10% by allowing longer electric-only driving times. The technology will only be offered in the Japan and European versions of the car to start with sales in the rest of the world including Malaysia in stages.

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Koji Toyoshima, chief engineer of the Prius plug-in and its standard Prius hybrid sibling, says Toyota aims to introduce the panels in the U.S. to start and later other markets. Currently there is only issue for this car’s launch in the American market. The 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 photovoltaic 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 lifecycle. Dubbed the Prius Prime in the U.S., the plug-in arrives in America in a few months’ time.

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. 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. They improve the car’s efficiency by up to 10%, Toyoshima said.

Longer-term, the solar panels could see wider applications. As Toyota lower down their cost, Toyoshima said the company hopes to introduce the solar-powered technology to other hybrids across the lineup.

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