Toyota Motor Corp (NYSE:TM) has launched a new variant of its popular hybrid vehicle, the Prius. The new version was launched in Japan, and one of the major differences from the regular version is a solar panel.
The automotive manufacturer fitted a solar panel on the top of the Prius to boost the vehicle’s rechargeable battery. The new variant is specifically designed for buyers in the US and the UK. It will not be available in Australia because Toyota Australia has eliminated plug-in hybrids from its business model in Australia. Other than that, Toyota plans to launch the new hybrid on an international scale. The company claims that the new model with the solar panel on top helps to improve fuel economy by as much as 10%.
The vehicle could be a hit especially for those who consider fuel economy as one of the major factors in making a decision on which vehicle to purchase. The company faces a regulatory problem in the US because it is currently not easy or even possible to create the roof in such a way that the glass does not shatter in the event the vehicle is involved in an accident.
The Prius PHV model features a 1.8 liter, four cylinder engine that employs a hybrid technology called the Atkinson cycle. It also features an electric motor that produces 95Kw and a lithium battery that produces 8.8kWh. The vehicle’s battery system alone can provide a range of 35 km. Apart from boosting the vehicle’s fuel economy by as much as 10%, the roof-mounted solar panel can also power the vehicle’s air conditioning system or the lights. It also charges the vehicle when it is not in motion.
The new Prius is not the first vehicle to take advantage of solar technology. The Fisker Karma also has solar panels to power the vehicle’s electronic functions. The 2009 Skoda Superb was also fitted with solar panels to power its air conditioning system and the same was also applied in Audi’s A8 limousine.