Panasonic Solar Roof Will Energize Toyota Prius Prime in Japan

Yesterday Panasonic unveiled a next-generation solar roof panel that will be optionally used on the Japanese-market Toyota Prius Prime.

With more than triple the energy generation of former 50-watt roof panels on the Toyota, the HIT™ Photovoltaic Module for Automobile could find its way onto other brand cars and will be able to power accessories and charge the battery with 180 watts output.

The idea of using available real estate on the car and capturing the sun’s energy may sound great, but even with superior photovoltaic cells, Toyota estimates on a sunny day maybe only 3.7 miles of electric range may be added.

That won’t do away with the need to plug in for the Prius Prime estimated in the U.S. with 25 miles range, but every bit counts.

Whether further advancements could inch the solar juice upwards enough to make the idea widespread is unclear, but Panasonic said new chemistry is responsible for its latest innovation

“Panasonic’s solar cells have a unique structure that combines a crystalline silicon substrate and an amorphous silicon film, and feature high conversion efficiency and excellent temperature characteristics,” said the company.

Notable also is Panasonic is a solar cell and battery supplier to Tesla, and is leveraging that relationship to potentially do business with other carmakers.

“Panasonic will make efforts to expand the use of the ‘HIT™ Photovoltaic Module for Automobile’ and contribute to the achievement of an environmentally friendly society in the automotive as well as the housing and industrial fields,” Panasonic said.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said the Model 3 will “probably” have a solar roof option as well, and if the idea continues to gain traction, it may become more common.

To date, Panasonic has not announced it would put the bent-glass covered roof on the U.S. market Prius Prime however.

The company is reportedly working on a solution to enable the roof to pass U.S. rollover tests, but for now this is a work in progress with no timeline given.


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