Solar-powered cars aren’t as far away as you might think. Just last week, we wrote about the unveiling of the LightYear One EV, a slick solar-powered car with a range of 450 miles. Now a more mainstream automaker is getting in on the action: Toyota.
Recently, the Japanese automaker unveiled an experimental Prius with a fresh rooftop solar kit to explore the limits of sun-powered travel. But unlike the previous solar panels to adorn its plug-in hybrid, the new array will be capable of charging the vehicle while it is on the move, a feature that is hoped to give range and efficiency a significant boost. When Toyota first experimented with solar panels in 2012, the panels could generate around 180 W of energy in ideal conditions, which adds only around 3.8 miles of battery-only range per day. By comparison, Toyota expects its latest array of solar panels to produce around 860 W.
This jump comes courtesy of new and improved solar cells developed by Sharp with a conversion efficiency of 34 percent (compared to 22.5 percent of the production version), and can apparently add 44.5 km (27.6 mi) of battery-only range per day. Toyota is set to start testing the new Prius this month on public roads in Japan.