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Solar power for the new Prius?

Posted by: Ian Rowley on July 6, 2008

I can’t be the only person to have been slightly underwhelmed after reading headlines in Japan today stating that the next generation Prius will use solar power, making Toyota the first major carmaker to use the technology in a mass production model.

Before anyone else gets too excited, it appears Toyota is planning to install solar panels in the roof of the new Prius to help power the air conditioning system, rather than propel the car. According to the reports, which aren’t attributed to anybody, Toyota will buy solar panels from Kyoto-based Kyocera capable of supplying part of the 2-5 kilowatts of power needed to run the air con unit. Whether the solar system will be optional or standard isn’t clear.

Still, it sounds like a good idea. While Japanese car drivers’ green credentials are pretty good (after all, one-on-three cars sold here is a 660cc minicar), it’s not unusual to see construction workers, taxi drivers or weary salarymen taking a break from the stifling summer heat by taking forty winks while reclining in a parked, fully air conditioned vehicle. If Toyota can come up with system that enables that without having to keep the engine running, it’s a step in the right direction.

UPDATE: As some readers with good memories have noted, even if the Prius does have solar panels it won’t be the first, despite the reports yesterday. The Japan-built 1993 Mazda 929 featured optional solar cells “embedded in the glass sunroof to power fans that remove hot air from the inside the car when it is parked.”

Reader Comments


July 7, 2008 1:22 PM

The Prius will not be the first mass-marketed vehicle to use solar panels... the 1992 Mazda 929 offered solar panels in the sunroof that would run fans to cool the interior while it was parked.

Kevin Kris

July 7, 2008 2:24 PM

But why only Air conditioning? Why can't it used to power the car?

I don't understand this..

There are already ways to power car using solar and why only A/C?

They have a 5000$ kit with which you can drive 15 to 20 miles every day on solar power ONLY !

Thomas George

July 7, 2008 5:14 PM

I was wondering why can't Toyota use on their hybrid cars the same belt system running an air conditioner while the car is running to power a dynamo that will recharge the batteries the car uses giving better fuel efficiency. What is stopping them doing that? Will it cost more fuel? Like to hear from others. thank you tom g

Frank Shook

July 7, 2008 9:43 PM

You're all fat slobs.

I want a car that isn't equipped with Air Conditioning. That probably nets 10% more fuel economy.


July 8, 2008 4:02 AM

Thomas George: solar panel can charge battery directly, no need to lose efficiency running a dynamo.
Jay: you're correct
Kevin Kris: existing solar panel technololgy is not able to produce enough electricity on its own to power a car. Electrity storage is still a problem.
Frank Shook: different folks needs different strokes.


July 8, 2008 7:52 AM

not to worry, gm has a response. it'll build a bigger hummer.


July 8, 2008 5:26 PM

Like the 626, the Audi A8 has offered an optional solar panel sunroof to power interior venting fans since 1997.


July 9, 2008 10:16 AM

I am thinking that the solar cells could be used to recharge the batteries just as well as the brakes are used for regenerative recharging. Use it more as an extender not a replacement for the engine.
and using it to run the A/C (or maybe the radio) takes a load off the batteries that would have to do it otherwise (and make the engine run more using more gas!).

Auto Solar Energy

July 10, 2008 2:22 AM

Yes, there are new alternatives using solar panels in Toyota, Mazda, Audi and other carmakers.

You can do the modification by yourself
and find more information about solar energy for houses and devices in the site



July 11, 2008 4:09 PM

How effective is this going to be, I mean really?


July 14, 2008 9:10 AM


July 18, 2008 10:31 AM

Certainly it saves some fuel and thereby a lot of money...Nice move to reduce gas consumption but anyone can say like how effective it would be if the air con is fueled by solar cells......

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