Who hasn’t thought of sticking a couple of solar panels onto an electric car’s roof to keep its battery at 100% charge while it’s parked out in the sun? While usually deemed impossible due to the large number and weight of PV solar cells required to get the necessary amount of energy, this hasn’t kept Toyota’s engineers from covering one of their Prius cars with 34+% efficient solar cells.
Some may remember the solar roof option which Toyota previously offered years ago. That system produced a mere 50 W and was only used for things like running the AC fans, indirectly extending the battery charge. In 2016 Toyota brought back this system, in a much improved version. This upped the power output to 180 W, allowing it to power all secondary electronics in the Prius, even allowing it to add a few extra kilometers (roughly 6.1 km/day) to the Prius’ range if one were so inclined.
This newest prototype pretty much goes for broke, reminding us of the cars used in the World Solar Challenge, such as the Dutch Stella and Stella Lux positive-energy solar cars by the team at the University of Eindhoven. Who coincidentally have done a spin-off, setting up a company to produce the Lightyear One, which at least on paper sounds amazing, and potentially may never have to plug it in.
With super-efficient solar cells producing about 860 W of power, the Toyota prototype Prius should be able to add roughly 44.5 kilometers to the car’s range. Maybe not as amazing as the Lightyear One, but Toyota has what appears to be a working prototype. With this additional range added just by having the car parked or driving in the sunshine, it could make it a very interesting proposition for a lot of people, depending on how much it’d add to the total cost of the car.
Admittedly, the current Prius prototype looks rather rough: the solar cells don’t blend in well with the rest of the car. But maybe that’s what’s so reassuring about Toyota’s efforts. Their engineers are improving performance and features as PV solar and other technologies improve, without a lot of focus on glossy CGI renders and marketing.
Would you be interested in adding nearly 50 km of range to your (hybrid) electric vehicle with a PV solar option like this? How much would you pay for it? Or would you rather get some 25+% efficient cells and glue them on your current electric car? Have you, or someone you know, ever blended PV solar and cars like this before? Please let us know in the comments.
Hat tip to [Qes] for sending in this tip!