Toyota has announced plans to test concept vehicles based on the Prius plug-in hybrid with integrated solar panels together with the research and development organization NEDO and the battery manufacturer Sharp starting at the end of this month.
The solar cell modules will be installed on the roof, hood and tailgate of the Prius PHEV. The integrated solar panels are designed to improve the range and fuel efficiency of the compact model. The carmaker did not specify which exact values Toyota was hoping for here.
The test will take place in Japan, for example in Toyota City, Tokyo, but also in other regions. The two project partners hope to simulate different conditions. According to Toyota, the data collected includes the amount of electricity generated by the solar battery module and the amount of energy used to charge the traction battery. The information should help in the development of a solar charging system for vehicles.
The data will also be shared with the other two cooperation partners NEDO and with Sharp, the who is supplying the solar cells. According to the Toyota announcement, the cells have a conversion efficiency of over 34 percent. Over the entire area, the solar power system is to have a rated an output of 860 watts. Compared to the Prius plug-in hybrid currently on offer, which can optionally be ordered with a small solar power system, the output is 4.8 times greater.
Another new feature of the test vehicles is that they are to generate electricity not only when parking, but also while driving on the road. Toyota hopes that this will result in longer ranges in electric mode. However, the standard consumption of the Prius-PHEV is already 7.2 kWh/100 km – during the journey, the solar system can only contribute a small part of the current consumption, even in sunny weather.