Imagine driving a solar-powered electric car, which you won’t need to worry about charging it every few miles. This sounds like the dream car, right? Well, as impossible as it might sound, Toyota has joined forces with Sharp, and NEDO (New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization of Japan) to hopefully create this car.
Free of charging equipment
In the market, there are already electric cars, but they need to be charged in approximately every 200 miles. And this is the moment for the solar-powered cars to come on the stage, as their biggest advantage is not needing any charging equipment. All they need is some sunshine and a battery that can give the car power at night and they can potentially run forever. And the sun shines out there all the time for free. “The solar car’s advantage is that, while it can’t drive for a long-range, it’s really independent of charging facilities,” said project manager at Toyota, Koji Makino to Bloomberg.
“The solar car’s advantage is that, while it can’t drive for a long-range, it’s really independent of charging facilities,” said project manager at Toyota, Koji Makino to Bloomberg.
However, this is something for the long run, because the solar panels needed to build such a car can cost really much. “This is not a technology we are going to see widely used in the next decades,” said Takeshi Miyao, an auto analyst at consultancy Carnorama. “It’s going to take a long time.”
Despite this, a Prius plug-in hybrid, which sells for more than 3 million yen offers solar panels as an option, but the drawback of them is that they only charge when parked. The maximum power capacity of driving only lasts about 6 kilometers, said Mitsuhiro Yamazaki, director at the solar energy systems division of NEDO.
Innovation at its finest
As we may have heard, existing solar panels on the market convert the sunlight at an efficiency of about 20 percent, and what Toyota with its partners have produced is the solar panel with better efficiency of sunlight converter to more than 34 percent. Moreover, they have built solar cells of about 0.03 mm thick that can be put on the car’s top, hood and hatchback.
A Toyota Prius equipped with a solar charging system. Photographer: Toru Hanai/Bloomberg
This means that the car can be equipped with an electrical system that can charge the vehicle even when it’s on the move. Mitsuhiro Yamazaki, director at the solar energy systems division of NEDO, states that if the car is only driven four days a week for a maximum of 50 kilometers a day, it does not need to be plugged in anywhere.
The future looks promising, Toyota!