Jorge Chapa

TRANSPORTATION TUESDAY: Solar Powered Toyota Prius!

by , 07/08/08

prius, solar panels, solar powered prius, toyota adds solar panels, solar powered air conditioning, solar air conditioning, solar powered toyota prius, greener prius, 2009 prius, 2010 prius, prius_1.jpg

The manufacturer of the most popular hybrid car on the market is planning take its green vision even further. Toyota, the makers of the Prius, have decided that the best way to make their top selling hybrid car even greener is to add a set of solar panels to the roof of the vehicle. The addition of solar power to the already super efficient Prius marks the first time that a major auto maker will use this renewable energy in a top selling car. Could this be the official start of a hot commercial trend?


prius, solar panels, solar powered prius, toyota adds solar panels, solar powered air conditioning, solar air conditioning, solar powered toyota prius, greener prius, 2009 prius, 2010 prius, prius_2.jpg

According to a report in the Nikkei Business Daily, Toyota is seriously mulling installing solar panels, to be produced by Kyocera, that will power the air-conditioning unit of the vehicle. This is part of the refreshed model which is expected to be available next spring. It is probably more of a symbolic gesture than anything else, but still, it is a nice detail that will save some fuel.

With oil prices so high, everyone is focusing on making their vehicles as fuel efficient as possible. And, as far as the big car manufacturers are concerned, no one does this better than Toyota. Hopefully, where Toyota leads, others will follow.

+ Toyota to equip Prius with solar panels: report
+ Toyota Prius

Image via: Car and Driver

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11 Comments

  1. Gang green January 17, 2009 at 2:00 am

    Toyota needs to make the Prius a plug-in or an EV for me to buy one. Once that happens, I personally would prefer a convertable to solar roof panels.

  2. troggg July 17, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    lamoose, thanks for posting that. We’re both “right” in that the article states one US plant will be converted; however the key figure was that the event will take place in 2010 for the next generation of Prius. So, yes, a plant is being converted, but it’s not being converted any time relevant for today’s gas situation.

    I just came off a year of selling Toyotas. I chose Toyotas because it was a chance to make a difference selling hybrids. So I’ve sold dozens of Priuses, Camry Hybrids, and Highlander Hybrids. It was really frustrating to run out of Priuses when every salesperson could have been selling like three of them a day. So I’m pretty disappointed with the company. It’s easy for my to say in hindsight that Toyota should have seen this coming – and your article hammers home my point about how badly they blew it with Tundra obsession – but it’s hard to believe a company the size of Toyota didn’t have executives monitoring future gas prices. Hard to believe or not, it’s “what is.”

    Yes, the automotive corporate psychologists even at the best companies like Toyota and Honda can blow it big time. Examples would be how Honda thought The Element would appeal to 18-24 year old surfers; middle aged and “old” folks buy these all day long. Ditto for Scion, supposedly a brand for Generation Y. I’d say the average age customer I sold these to was about 60!

    Despite my rants about Toyota Corporation, I’ll repeat that their Hybrid Synergy Drive system, while not the ultimate long term solution to the world’s automotive woes, works beautifully here and now with what appears to be a complete absence of maintenance issues. MPG gets all the headlines, but the subhead is that there really is there wear and tear on these vehicles because there are two engines, the transmission is gearless, and the engine braking means brakes hardly ever wear out. The Highlander Hybrid simply drives beautifully, though I wouldn’t call it a bargain. Those of you bummed you can’t buy a Prius for six months really should consider the Camry Hybrid. It’s bigger and drives better with a happening stereo for not much more than a Prius. Wait times are in the weeks. Most dealers will take a $500 refundable deposit to hold one. If you don’t like the way it drives when it comes in, you get your money back – but you’ll drive it happily to the tune of 40 MPG. Camry Hybrids IMHO are the best deals in the automotive world right now. They’ve got safety features up the ying-yang, and resale values are outrageously good. Too bad I can’t still sell you one!

  3. lamoose July 17, 2008 at 4:14 am

    Troggg, i have to admit the mileage game was fun.
    The info on Toyota stopping and reducing production of Tundras and otherSUV’s and building the Prius as in an article on http://www.just-auto.com. You need to be a member to gain access through. I work in the auto industry here in the UK, I used to design suspension systems and now advise designers and engineers on best methods for designing on CAD systems.
    Here is the article from just auto.

    Toyota Motor Corporation on Thursday announced a drastic shake-up of its US production, reducing output of gas-guzzling SUVs and trucks in favour of a fuel-sipping hybrid.

    It is also – as have some of the Detroit-based Big Three – completely halting assembly of some truck and SUV models – and their engines – at other plants for three months.

    Local reports have recently highlighted Toyota’s growing inventory of large trucks and SUVs and a shortage of Prius hybrids which saw company post sales off 11.5% year on year in June and 6.8% year to date, according to WardsAuto.com.

    TMC said today that Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Mississippi, (TMMMS), currently being built and originally scheduled to produce the Highlander SUV [called Kluger elsewhere], will instead build the Prius hybrid from the second half of 2010.

    This should be the third generation model expected out by then, likely with plug-in technology as either standard or optional.

    Highlanders will now be built in the US at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Indiana, (TMMI) from autumn 2009. The plant already makes the Tundra truck, Sequoia large SUV and Sienna minivan.

    Production of that Tundra full-size pickup truck at Indiana will be axed, however, and “consolidated” at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas, in San Antonio from spring 2009. That plant opened at the end of 2006 but has never met its original production goals, according to US reports.

    The Prius is the second Toyota hybrid to be built in North America after the Kentucky-built Camry.

    “Strong demand for hybrid vehicles is expected to continue,” the automaker said. “Therefore, TMC, as a step toward a more stable North American production structure, intends to respond to customer needs by localising hybrid vehicle production.

    “The introduction of the Highlander at [Indiana] and the consolidation of Tundra production at [Texas] are intended to increase efficiencies at both plants and to achieve steady plant utilisation rates.”

    TMC is also suspending Tundra and Sequoia production in Indiana, Tundra output at San Antonio and associated V6 and V8 petrol engine output at its plant in Alabama for about three months from early August until November.

    “During this non-production period, employees are to mainly be assigned to participate in ‘continuous improvement’ activities and training,” TMC said.

    “TMC intends to use the opportunity presented by this period to cultivate its employees, with a long-term aim to further increase the productivity of its vehicle production plants in North America.”

    In 2007 Toyota built 1,671,009 vehicles, up 8%, and 1,571,872 engines, a 10% increase, in North America, attributing the rise largely to the Tundra production ramp-up in Texas and Camry production in Indiana.

    Its output had increased 39% over the previous five years and it had been preparing to increase vehicle capacity to approximately 2.2m units by 2010.

    The Kentucky plant is scheduled to start building a new Venza crossover sedan this autumn while a new Canadian factory in Woodstock, Ontario will open late in the year with the capacity to build 150,000 RAV4 SUVs.

  4. troggg July 15, 2008 at 11:44 am

    lamoose, please provide a link to your claim that any American Toyota factories are switching production from Tundras or any other vehicles to Priuses. I don’t believe this is true at all, but I’ll happily jump back if you can provide such a link. Yes, the same factories in Japan can produce I believe 4Runners, RAV4s, and Priuses, but I haven’t heard that the American Tundra/Sequoia plants now have the capability to switch to Priuses. For earth’s sake I hope you’re right in our little debate, but I think not.

    Regarding racing, of course the Prius would consume more fuel than an M3 because it will use the gas engine at full bore; clearly the wonderful MPG figures you yourself observed are achieved when the Prius uses all or mostly its electric engine, in other words, with the gas pedal moderately depressed. Priuses were not intended to be race cars. That said, they weren’t intended to be taxis either, but weirdly enough they’re doing an amazing job in metropolitan areas like New York and Vancouver. Battery life seems to be practically eternal as 400,000 miles have been achieved by some NY cabs on their original batteries.

    The fact you were mesmerized by the Prius’ display does not make the car dangerous, that word might pertain to your driving habits. Screen study is best left to the passenger on longish forays. You could have turned off the display with a couple of touches to the screen. Or at least admit it was fun to play the high mileage game!

    Regarding implementation of diesel vehicles. . . well. . . supposed white knight Toyota has all but announced a diesel Tundra for 2010. . . but I don’t exactly think that’s what the green world was waiting for!!! Methinks Honda is more committed to diesel to wit the forthcoming Acura TSX diesel. But America is not clamoring for diesel because Americans are already reeling from fuel prices and diesel is more expensive than gas here. I know that in the overall world scheme of things gas is still cheap here, but it’s all perspective.

  5. lamoose July 15, 2008 at 5:37 am

    With regards to troggg’s comments, Toyota are now stopping production of all pickup trucks in the States for 3 months minimum and are switching their production around to produce more of the Prius. They have very flexible manufacturing facilities so are able to do this, unlike the traditional Big 3 who have homes in antiquated production facilities. You say about the Camry pulling 40 mpg, most cars in Britain can obtain that. The other week Top Gear, a UK TV show, highlighted how uneconomical the Prius is by having it go around a race track with a BMW M3 following it. At the end of the race the Prius consumed more fuel than the M3. I know its not a brilliant or scientific test but hybrid cars are only useful in city environments where speeds are below 30mph. I have driven a Prius on the open road and i did achieve a fuel economy of 65mpg but i had to concentrate on not over using the accelerator pedal. The fact is, i found driving the Prius very dangerous as i was constantly looking at the screen displaying all my economy figures and use of the engine compared to the hybrid system. Very distracting. The US needs to see diesel power as an option and havea better distribution and rid themselves of their phobia for small cars. I know the tide is changing and they are slowly adopting them but they need to speed things up and ditch the gas guzzlers.
    I dont normally blog but i’m rather enjoying it.

  6. troggg July 14, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    Actually Toyota put a monumental effort into the 8-cylinder gas-guzzling Tundra, not its hybrids, believing it had unlocked the key to America’s true passion – big trucks. Many millions of advertising later and good word-of-mouth later (it is fantastic for what it’s inteded to do), last winter the Tundra indeed began taking off, to the extent that two American factories, one in San Antonio and one in Indiana, were built and dedicated to the Tundra and its close relative the Sequoia, an 8-cylinder gas-guzzling people mover.

    Obsessed as Toyota was with this epochal effort, Toyota failed to have its collective ear to the ground regarding the forthcoming oil and gas situation. Now there are hundreds of thousands of Tundras and Sequoias sitting on lots despite Toyota’s giveaway efforts – and, most embarassingly, the company now has a five-month backlog of Prius orders.

    If the company was anywhere near as committed to greenery as this article suggests, at least one of those American factories should have been dedicated to hybrids.

    In fairness to Toyota, one thing that cannot be taken away from them is that all three of their hybrid offerings are absolutely stellar mechanically. The high MPG numbers reap all the attention, but these (Prius, Camry Hybrid, and Highlander Hybrid) are wonderful vehicles that take virtually no maintenance or upkeep to run. My personal feeling is that the underpublicized Camry Hybrid is the best value of the three, since a quick trip to Edmunds.com confirms that almost everyone gets at least 40 MPG in all around driving – and this vehicle costs barely more than the non-available Prius.

    That said, there is no doubt whatsoever that the company prioritized monster trucks over hybrids and is paying a heavy price for it now.

  7. steven_seagull July 10, 2008 at 1:24 am

    Pure genius.

    Toyota has been exemplary in preparing for future trends. Air conditioners powered by photo voltaic panels are excellent in addressing issues such as global warming.

  8. jdub July 8, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    Until some of the smaller, super fuel efficeint diesel cars even become available in the US the Prius is still one of the best choices we have.

    Honestly I would love to see any of these cars available stateside:

    http://cars.uk.msn.com/greenmotoring/article.aspx?cp-documentid=1379476

  9. jos_smos July 8, 2008 at 11:33 am

    We’re getting closer, but I have to agree with lamoose. The Prius only has an iconic state because it was the first commercially developped hybrid. But the Prius is not that dramatically more fuel-efficient than other non-hybrid cars.

    Also, Toyota has equipped its Lexus luxury-cars with hybrids, but only combined with heavy combustion engines (in our Belgian terms a 3.3 litre engine is quite a big one), just to make those gas guzzlers a little more efficient. But they still are far from efficient. The good thing is that it is a nice way to make hybrid (and other future electric) technology more affordable.

    So, I am sure Toyota can (and will) do a lot better in the future. An icon has to remain an icon, doesn’t it? Maybe a fuel-cell powered Prius with additional solar roof?

    Anyways, I always say that a car can’t be environmentally friendly as long as it’s running on fossil fuels, how fuel-efficient they may be.

  10. manujarch July 8, 2008 at 8:38 am

    Nice car. Hope it becomes affordable for people in our country.

  11. lamoose July 8, 2008 at 7:26 am

    I wish the world would stopping calling the Prius the world’s greenest car, it’s not. If you look at the manufacturing process to actually created all the components, especially the battery system, then you will relise how non green the car is. Countless tests have proven it to be less fuel effieicent than most cars on most journeys. The new Mini Diesel or Polo Blue Diesel are far more efficient, even a BMV 520 diesel is more fuel efficient. Stop putting the Prius on a pedestal and look at the many other efficient cars out there.

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