According to several reports, Toyota’s next-generation Prius, due out next year, will have the option for solar panels on its roof. Japanese newspaper Nikkei and Reuters are reporting that Kyocera will provide the solar panels, which would be able to power part of the 2- to 5-kilowatt air conditioning system.
But solar panels are generally more a symbol of green than an important power source. Reuters quotes a source who says the solar panels for the next-gen Prius are “more of a symbolic gesture,” as “it’s very difficult to power much more than that with solar energy.” According to this white paper a solar-powered Prius could drive between 5 to 8 miles on solar power alone, which could actually reduce gas consumption by 17 to 29 percent.
Solar-powered vehicles are not a new idea, and there are a variety of prototypes of alternative vehicles that have been designed with solar panels to provide extra green power, like this one out of Taiwan. But, as Marketwatch notes, Toyota’s Solar Prius “will make Toyota the first major automaker to install a popular model with solar panels.” In that sense, the fact that Toyota is adding solar as an option is notable.