Yesterday Panasonic unveiled a next-generation solar roof panel that will be optionally used on the Japanese-market Toyota Prius Prime.
With more than triple the energy generation of former 50-watt roof panels on the Toyota, the HIT Photovoltaic Module for Automobile could find its way onto other brands’ cars and will be able to power accessories and charge the battery with 180 watts of output.
The idea of using available real estate on the car and capturing the sun’s energy may sound great, but even with superior photovoltaic cells, Toyota estimates that just 3.7 miles of daily electric range may be added, even on a sunny day.
That won’t be enough to skip plugging in the Prius Prime at every opportunity, as it is estimated in the at 25 miles range in the U.S., but every bit counts.
Whether further advancements could inch the solar juice upwards enough to make the idea widespread is unclear, but Panasonic said new chemistry is responsible for its latest innovation.
SEE MORE: 2017 Toyota Prius Prime Review
“Panasonic’s solar cells have a unique structure that combines a crystalline silicon substrate and an amorphous silicon film, and feature high conversion efficiency and excellent temperature characteristics,” said the company.
Notable also is that Panasonic is a solar cell and battery supplier to Tesla, and is leveraging that relationship to potentially do business with other carmakers.
“Panasonic will make efforts to expand the use of the HIT Photovoltaic Module for Automobile and contribute to the achievement of an environmentally friendly society in the automotive as well as the housing and industrial fields,” Panasonic said.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said the Model 3 will “probably” have a solar roof option as well, and if the idea continues to gain traction, it may become more common.
However, Panasonic has not announced that it would put the bent-glass covered roof on the U.S. market Prius Prime at this time.
The company is reportedly working on a solution to enable the roof to pass U.S. rollover tests, but for now it is a work in progress with no timeline given.