Panasonic has debuted a new solar panel roof for the Toyota Prius plug-in model. The alternative power source is said to be much better than previous attempts and will add range to owners’ cars during the day thanks to sunlight. However, the fancy roof is only an option in Japan and Europe for now.
This isn’t the first attempt at adding solar panels to the roof of a car. However, Panasonic says this roof is capable of generating 180 watts of power, which is enough to power the Prius’ accessories and still charge the lithium-ion battery pack. Previous panels were only capable of supplying power to the 12V battery system, which does not charge the car. In fact, Toyota is saying the roof panel can add up to 3.7 miles of range per day to the Prius if it is in the sunlight.
Panasonic is calling the roof the HIT™ Photovoltaic Module for Automobile. For now it isn’t offered in the U.S. because it does not meet safety requirements. That regulatory issue is expected to go away though as more automakers bring Panasonic’s HIT system to market and develop the appropriate glass for it to pass safety muster.
The first OEM expected to utilize the HIT system in the U.S.? Likely Tesla with its Model 3 sedan. The company has already confirmed a solar panel roof for the car and Panasonic and Tesla are already awfully intertwined on battery and solar technology.