Solar car roofs have generally been the reserve of concepts, experimentsand niche carmakers. Toyota was the first major automaker to offer the option on its Prius hybrid plug-in model in 2012 and now Panasonic has developed a solar photovoltaic car roof for the latest Prius PHEV, upping the wattage from 50 W to 180 W.
Called the HIT Photovoltaic Module for Automobile, the 180-W-generating roof is the first designed with the ability to recharge the lithium-ion powertrain battery, along with the standard 12-V lead-acid battery. Panasonic’s solar roofs have also been designed with a resistance to hot environments, which normally lead to a decline in output as the temperatures rise.
The previous Prius solar roof only generated nominal electricity: enough to power the ventilation fans when in park, and for use as an auxiliary charging source for the 12-V battery. And while 180 W still doesn’t provide much oomph, Toyota says it would increase the car’s efficiency by up to 10 percent, adding up to 2.2 miles (3.5 km) of range per day, in ideal conditions.
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