Toyota is pushing the envelope when it comes to figuring out what is possible for solar powered vehicles. The key to Toyota’s experiment is a partnership with electronics firm Sharp, which is supplying the high-tech solar panels for the project.
The panels from Sharp are 34% efficient — meaning they convert about a third of all the sunlight they receive into electricity. A typical commercially available solar panel today has an efficiency of about 23%.
The solar panels are mounted on the hood, roof, rear window, and spoiler of a normal Toyota Prius. In testing since last July, they have been able to add an average of 35 miles | 56 kilometers of range while driving and 27 miles | 43 kilometers while parked.
If that sounds like no big deal to you, consider this. The average American drives 27 miles or less every day, which means a car equipped with solar panels would never have to be plugged in during regular use.
Such high efficiency solar panels don’t come cheap. They are usually reserved for use on satellites where cost is not a consideration. However Toyota is hoping its experiments will drive down the cost of automotive solar systems in the same way as the solar panel industry has witnessed in a decade. Today solar panels are ten times cheaper.
Reference- Clean Technica, Toyota PR