Car manufacturing giant Toyota Motor Corp is to begin trialling later this month a new version of its Prius hybrid car, this time with up to 860 watts of thin film solar that will be able to charge its “solar battery” as it drives, and add more than 50kms to its fossil fuel-free driving range.

The trials taking place in Japan use high efficiency (34 per cent) Sharp thin film solar cells situated on the bonnet (or hood), roof, rear hatch door and rear hatch door varnish.

The aim in the series of trial being co-ordinated by Toyota, Sharp and research organisation NEDO is try and reach 1kW output from solar panels on the car, which they see as a potential game changer – not just for hybrids, but also full battery electric vehicles.

“The goal is to contribute to the creation of a new solar battery panel market, including the transport sector, and find solutions for energy and environmental issues,” the company says in a statement.

Toyota has a small solar pack placed on some Prius PHV models sold in the US, but this provides just 160 watts of output and extends the range by a meagre 8kms.

One of the big new developments in this latest trial is the ability of the solar power to charge the battery while it is being driven, and not just when it is parked.

“By enhancing the solar battery panel’s efficiency and expanding its onboard area, Toyota was able to achieve a rated power generation output of around 860 watts, which is approximately 4.8-times higher in comparison with the commercial model Prius PHV (equipped with a solar charging system).

“In addition to substantially boosting its power generation output, the demo car employs a system that charges the driving battery while the vehicle is parked and also while it’s being driven, a development that is expected to lead to considerable improvements in electric-powered cruising range and fuel efficiency.”

Toyota hopes to use the data obtained from the trial to guide future decisions and calibrations around the onboard solar recharging system.

 

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