Next Generation Prius Sports Rooftop Solar Panels as an Option

Prius to offer solar rooftop panels on next generationThe next generation Toyota Prius, due out for the 2010 model year, will offer the option of rooftop solar panels. Produced by Kyocera, the panels are expected to produce no more than about 1 kilowatt of electricity.

That one kilowatt of electricity would only be enough to help power the ventilation and AC systems, something especially appreciated when getting in a car that’s been sitting in the sun for hours on a hot day. The solar panels would enable use of the interior fan to help keep the car cool when not in use.

Of course, the car would need to be parked in the sun, and if we continue this logic, if it isn’t parked in the sun, keeping it cool wouldn’t be as much of an issue.

Air conditioning systems put quite a load on the engine and reduce efficiency. Nonetheless, the idea of solar panels on a Prius is, as one anonymous Toyota insider put it,

“…more of a symbolic gesture. It’s very difficult to power much more than that [AC] with solar energy”

What surprised me most about this story is the response from the blogoshere.

Don’t shoot the messenger

I am fortunate enough to not have need for a car in my urban environs. Thus, I am agnostic on this issue.

Not everyone is.

While it sounds like a nifty idea initially, there are issues how effective the system would be in relation to the materials required to produce the panels, added weight, and whether Toyota is simply greenwashing the public.

My estimation of the general reaction to the idea is probably about 50/50 – but some of those against it are rather vehement in their opposition, one commenter not only condemning a blogger at EcoTechDaily, but the entire green movement as well. We can all just go to hell.

Perhaps the Prius (as I understand it, known to owners living in Berkeley as the “Pius”) is to the green movement what Al Gore is to climate change – a symbol of rage for the non-believers.

I couldn’t say, but I’d be interested to hear from readers of TriplePundit what they think of the idea.

Please don’t shoot the messenger.

Further reading:



Tom is the founder, editor, and publisher of and the TDS Environmental Media Network. He has been a contributor for Triple Pundit since 2007. Tom has also written for Slate, Earth911, the Pepsico Foundation, Cleantechnia, Planetsave, and many other sustainability-focused publications. He is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists

4 responses

  1. If the car is sitting in the sun all day and you are only going to drive it 15 miles/day 1 kw is probably enough power for an all electric ride. Most days I only drive about 10 miles.

  2. I have a Prius and live in Arizona. I get about 3 MPG less in the summer than the winter because AC is a necessity here then. Most shopping parking lots do not have covered areas so that is where solar panels would be most useful. But most people only park there for an hour at the most. Office lots, where cars are parked longer, tend to have covered parking. The best solution in areas like Phoenix is to add shaded parking to open lots and put solar panels on the canopy roofs. Eventually we’ll have hybrids that are truly “next generation” and they could be plugged into the shade structures. Shade and power – problem solved.

  3. A solar panel in the roof is clearly not sufficient to provide enough energy to move the car.
    But maintaining the car at a comfortable temperature when parked in the sun it is not only convenient but also spare some energy.
    No need to have the air conditioner at full power when start driving the car again.

  4. I bought a 2010 with the solar panels because i believe in solar and I want to support technology I believe with my dollars.

    It works great. The panels keep the interior no warner than the ambient air temperature outside the car. I get a sunroof to boot.

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