It’s not the first time that the Toyota Prius has donned solar panels, but now Panasonic Corp. has developed its 180 watt "HIT Photovoltaic Module for Automobile,” which was developed for the new Prius Prime or PHV. The company also said it’s looking to expand the use of the rooftop beyond the Prius. For instance, it could be an option for the new Tesla Model 3, a Panasonic partner.
The first 50-watt photovoltaics on Prius’ rooftop could only charge an AC-unit to keep the vehicle cool. Now the new, high efficiency solar panels will charge will generate power that charges the drive and the Prius’ 12-volt batteries.
The new rooftop module was specially designed for automotive purposes. As such, Panasonic had to develop a way to laminate the three-dimensional curved glass to fit the design of the Prius’s roof. It also paired two types of photovoltaic technologies together, a crystalline silicon substrate and an amorphous silicon film. The company said it features high conversion efficiency and excellent temperature characteristics.
“Conventional automotive solar cells can output up to several tens of watts and have been used only for the auxiliary charging of 12 V batteries and ventilation power sources for parked cars; however, the use of the features of Panasonic's solar cells allow a high output (approx.180 W) in a limited area on a car's roof, enabling the charging of the drive lithium-ion batteries as well as 12 V batteries, resulting in a possible extension of an EV's travel distance and increased in fuel economy,” Panasonic said.
The system will help charge the vehicle’s motor and its batteries, but don’t expect a hugely extended range. In optimum conditions the solar panel could increase the car’s efficiency by about 10 percent and add about 2.2 miles to the car’s ability to travel under electric alone, Toyota engineers have reportedly said.
Toyota will launch the new Prime in Japan. Currently the glass rooftop hasn’t met US safety standards.
Shortly after Tesla Founder Elon Musk unveiled its solar roof shingles last year he said in a conference call that the roof of the company’s forthcoming model, the less expensive Model 3, could include the same type of solar technology in its rooftop. Panasonic already is producing solar panels for the company’s solar division, SolarCity, and is producing batteries for its vehicles and home and commercial energy storage purposes, people already speculating that the new Panasonic automotive solar module, or something based on it, could end up on the Model 3.Tweet