Tokyo (Japan) – Toyota is playing with the idea to equip upcoming Prius hybrids with solar panels to improve the energy efficiency of the car.
According to an article published by Nikkei.net (translated version here), Toyota engineers have started working on ideas to integrate solar panels in its Prius vehicle. However, the solar panels are not planned to become an additional direct power source for the electric engine, but as a technology to provide energy for electric components such as the air conditioner.
Similar ideas have emerged in the past from other manufacturers. Porsche, for example focuses much of its (non-solar) hybrid technology to be released in 2009 in the Cayenne hybrid SUV and the Panamera hybrid sedan on powering electric components through regenerated energy and Fisker recently said that its 2010 Karma sedan would be offered with solar panels that could power components such as the air conditioner.
According to the Nikkei article, Toyota has not made a decision on the solar panels yet and there is no information hen solar panels could be offered and how much they will cost. However, the company confirmed that a plug-in version of the Prius is on track for a 2010 release.