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Toyota’s New Solar Car May Be the “Charge” That Hybrid Vehicles Need

In 2016, Toyota unveiled the Prius PHV in Japan which included solar cells that allowed the vehicle to charge while parked. Although it didn’t make great strides in regard to fuel economy, it was a step in the right direction.

Wanting to make headway with solar power technology, Toyota has just revealed the ace up its sleeve with its latest plug-in Prius model. The results are pretty significant.

Early Criticisms of Toyotas Model

This first iteration of Toyota’s solar-powered vehicle came under heavy scrutiny as it only charged the auxiliary battery and therefore could not be charged while it was driving along the road. To many, this seemed somewhat inconsequential and lacked any real benefits for hybrid vehicles.

Others criticized the car’s practicality in that the additional $2,000 solar roof option only yielded an extra 3.8 miles of extra driving per day. Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk considers the solar panels as “not that helpful” since the surface area of the Pruis is minimal and most cars are parked inside.

Toyota’s Newest Prototype May Silence Critics

Toyota has partnered with Sharp and research company NEDO to provide a better-performing vehicle. The company claims that it has succeeded in inventing a more high-efficiency Prius that delivers an additional 27 miles when parked in the sun all day. This is nearly seven times the amount of its previous iteration that was released only three years ago.

What’s even more impressive is its ability to charge while on the road. While driving, the Prius prototype can receive an additional 35 miles per day. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that Americans commute around 37 miles a day. Using entry-level mathematics, that’s approximately an entire day’s worth of energy produced by Toyota’s new Prius.

Technological Improvements

The 2016 Prius PHV contained an optional solar cell on its roof. This was the only “panel” that Toyota placed on the hybrid during its first attempt at innovative energy-efficiency. It’s safe to say that its latest model took a more aggressive approach to solar cell integration.

In collaboration with Sharp, Toyota was able to expand its panel installation on other surfaces such as the hood and rear hatch door in an attempt to capture as much sunlight as it could. The newer model also implemented a much slimmer 0.03mm design that allowed for better placement of the panels around the curves and corners of the vehicle.

What Lies Ahead

Toyota plans to begin public trials later this month to gain more data in order to keep the technology moving forward. Once new innovation has been discovered, it’s not long before the competition starts to gain traction.

In fact, a Germany-based start-up company named Soto-Motors has invented the Sion car that is already tailgating Toyota’s advancement in solar panel energy efficiency. It boasts of the ability to regain an additional 21 miles of energy via its solar panels. It’s also an all-electric vehicle which may give it a leg up on Toyota’s latest model.

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