Solar-powered Toyota Prius will soon be on the streets as the automaker continues to explore the idea of zero-carbon emission cars through solar energy. Toyota announced that testing for its most advanced system to date will begin later this month.
Until now, the challenge has been how to create solar cells that could offer a reasonable amount of power. Solar-powered Toyota Prius now has high-efficiency solar cells, according to Toyota. Thanks to a partnership with Sharp. The effectiveness of all improvements in the Prius plug-in hybrid, which include cruising range, fuel efficiency, and advanced solar technology, will be accessed through road trails later this month.
Toyota included solar cells with its Japan-only Prius PHV designed in 2016, but have updated the system in several ways with more sophisticated technology. The previous design, for instance, could only charge the vehicle when parked, whereas the new design allows the vehicle to be charging while being driven.
The new, thinner cells have made it possible for Toyota to install the panels on almost every surface of the car, including the rear hatch door, roof, and hood, to enable it to catch as much sunlight as possible. A just 0.03mm, the slimmer solar panel design could be placed onto curved surfaces, including tight spots around the car, just to maximize the amount of power received from sunlight.
Toyota also improved the technology’s ability to convert solar energy. The previous design had 22.5 percent efficiency, whereas the significantly improved version is at 34 percent efficiency. By enhancing the energy conversion efficiency and increasing the number of solar cells installed on the Prius, the improved vehicle now prides five times the power generated by the Prius PHV, says Toyota.
If parked in the sun for a whole day, the improved system will enable the solar car to generate enough power (860W) for an extra 27 miles (44.5 km) of range. That’s about seven times the previous design’s range.
Toyota will consider using the new design alongside another power source, instead of completely depending on it as a source of energy. This is due to the continuing limitations of the technology despite the automaker’s efforts and impressive improvements on the design.
Hyundai is another car manufacturer exploring ways to incorporate solar cells into its vehicles. Dutch firm Lightyear announced last month that it would launch a car partially powered by solar cells (Lightyear One) in 2021.
The Lightyear One prototype vehicle is reportedly designed with far more solar cells technology such that it has a driving range of 450 miles on a single charge.