Panasonic just unveiled an improved solar panel to power cars. The panel will be used for the first solar roof model of the Toyota Prius, the Prius Prime, which is slated for release this year. The new product, called HIT™ Photovoltaic Module for Automobile, will reportedly allow the Prius Prime to be powered by a 180 W solar module, which will recharge the car’s powertrain battery in addition to its 12 V battery. Previous attempts by Toyota to create a solar roof model had managed to generate a mere 50 W — only enough to power vehicle’s fans for air conditioning.
According to Toyota, the addition of the solar panel will increase the Prius’ efficiency by up to 10 percent. In ideal conditions, the battery will add 3.5 km (2.2 mi) of electric range.
The solar outfitted Prius is still unavailable in the US since the material used for the solar panels have yet to pass US crash tests. But the manufacturer is already working on a solution.
Not to be left behind, Elon Musk has announced that the Tesla Model 3 will also likely feature this solar roof option. This isn’t surprising, given that Panasonic has been providing solar and battery cells to the car manufacturer.
As Tesla works toward improving their electric vehicles’ performance and reliability, the company’s researchers are also gunning for sophisticated and advanced features such as Autopilot. Elon Musk stated that full self-driving capability features would noticeably depart from enhanced autopilot features by the end of July 2017.
The company is also poised to enter the ride-sharing market with its own fleet of self-driving cars.
Tesla has shown its commitment to ushering in a new era in energy, both on and off the road, thanks to their recent innovations and initiatives geared towards solar power and energy storage. Now that Toyota is joining in the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, we can only hope that other car manufacturers will begin making the switch as well.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated. A previous version stated that Tesla hoped to achieve level 5 autonomy by the end of the year. This has been corrected to clarify Musk’s statements about the noticeable appearance of full self-driving capabilities.