solar powered cars
Image credit: Toyota

Toyota Motor Corporation (Toyota), Sharp Corporation, and NEDO have unveiled the technology that is set to challenge Lightyear’s recently unveiled “One”, the first commercially-available, solar powered car.

But rather than working on an entirely new vehicle, the auto-marque has returned to its Prius’ green energy intentions, and owners can see, hear, and a greener future.

Toyota’s Prius PHV will be trialled under various driving conditions in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture, Tokyo, and other areas.

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The outcome of the trial, set to run until the end of July, will be held during the country’s peak summer-period.

The trials aim to assess improvements in cruising range and fuel efficiency of electrified vehicles equipped with high-efficiency solar batteries.

Sharp modularised solar battery cells initially developed for a NEDO-led project, deliver a 34% conversion efficiency, a marked improvement in performance.

The Prius PHV is kitted with solar panels on the roof, bonnet, and rear-hatch door. The panels are made of highly-effective solar panels, moulded inside which the inventors claim will stand up to an adult walking on the top of the car.

To facilitate the execution of this trial, Sharp modularised its high-efficiency solar battery cells, (conversion efficiency of 34 percent-plus), previously developed for a NEDO-led project, to create an onboard solar battery panel.

Toyota installed this panel on the roof, hood, rear hatch door, and other parts of its "Prius PHV" and produced a demo car for public road trials. 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 W, 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 plans to conduct the trials under various driving conditions in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture, Tokyo, and other areas, with plans to share a selection of trial data results with NEDO and Sharp.

The PV-powered Vehicle Strategy Committee with sponsorship by NEDO and other entities will evaluate the benefits based on emissions improvements, CO2 reductions and convenience, such as the number of times a vehicle requires recharging. The goal, the companies say, 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.

And now for something completely different. The transition to clean transportation and electric vehicles is not without it's detractors, but what if one of those detractors was the vehicle salesperson helping you buy your first EV? Oh, and what if his name was Arnold Schwarzenegger, in a bad wig, and an even-worse Hawaii-themed shirt? Have a quick look.