Solar-Powered Cars

Generically, a car is simply “personal transportation.” It enables us to go where we wish, when we wish, and … with multiple models available … in a style that’s most comfortable to us.  The problem:  most cars are powered by fossil fuels, which are destroying our ability to sustain life on Earth.  Clearly, a solar-powered car would give us the same transportation convenience without damaging our planet.  However …

Corporations that have made a living producing and selling gas-powered cars are not going to abandon what’s made them successful. Corporations that actually produce the fossil fuels are not going to champion a reduction in the use of their product.  And even governments that maintain their highways with a gas tax will be reticent to figure out a new way to generate revenue.  So …

European nations – especially the Nordic countries – have made rapid changes toward e-cars. They enjoy quieter streets and better air quality.  But the U.S. is an oil-based country and the change is a lot slower.  But … the change will happen, and must happen.  Here’s a report of three new developments.  I’ll add comments afterwards.

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Toyota begins testing of solar-powered and self-charging Prius



The Driven

JULY 15, 2019


Car manufacturing giant Toyota Motor Corp is to begin trialling later this month a new version of its Prius hybrid car, this time with up to 860 watts of thin film solar that will be able to charge its “solar battery” as it drives, and add more than 50kms to its fossil fuel-free driving range.

The trials taking place in Japan use high efficiency (34 per cent) Sharp thin film solar cells situated on the bonnet (or hood), roof, rear hatch door and rear hatch door varnish.

The aim in the series of trial being co-ordinated by Toyota, Sharp and research organisation NEDO is try and reach 1kW output from solar panels on the car, which they see as a potential game changer – not just for hybrids, but also full battery electric vehicles.

The company says in a statement.


“The goal is to contribute to the

creation of a new solar battery

panel market, including the tran-

sport sector, and find solutions for

energy and environmental issues.”


Toyota has a small solar pack placed on some Prius PHV models sold in the US, but this provides just 160 watts of output and extends the range by a meagre 8kms.

One of the big new developments in this latest trial is the ability of the solar power to charge the battery while it is being driven, and not just when it is parked.


“By enhancing the solar battery panel’s

efficiency and expanding its onboard area,

Toyota was able to achieve a rated power

generation output of around 860 watts,

which is approximately 4.8-times higher in

comparison with the commercial model Prius

PHV (equipped with a solar charging system).


“In addition to substantially boosting its po-

wer generation output, the demo car employs

a system that charges the driving battery while

the vehicle is parked and also while it’s being

driven, a development that is expected to lead

to considerable improvements in electric-

powered cruising range and fuel efficiency.”


Toyota hopes to use the data obtained from the trial to guide future decisions and calibrations around the onboard solar recharging system. 


Here’s a second article, also related to Toyota …



Toyota plans to launch its first full EVs, in a deal with China’s BYD


MIT Technology Review

Jul 19, 2019


Toyota is finally diving into fully electric vehicles, striking a deal with China’s BYD to jointly develop batteries, sedans, and SUVs for the world’s largest automobile market.

Japan’s top automaker expects to deliver its first Toyota-branded EV in China next year, a version of its C-HR/IZOA compact crossover, Reuters reported.

So what? The move comes in response to growing global demand for electric vehicles, driven by a combination of government subsidies, emissions mandates, and increasing acceptance among consumers.

The partnership with BYD, the world’s largest EV maker, underscores how dominant China has become during recent years in electric vehicles and batteries. It comes on the heels of Toyota’s announcement earlier this week that it will buy vehicle batteries from and develop them with CATL, China’s dominant player. That widens and diversifies Toyota’s supply chain beyond Panasonic, which provides batteries for the company’s plug-in hybrids. (See “China’s ambition to power the world’s electric cars took a huge leap forward this week.”)

Playing catch-up: While Toyota was an early leader in hybrids, it’s been a laggard in rolling out full electric vehicles. But last month, the company announced that EVs and hybrids would represent half its worldwide sales by 2025, moving up its timetable by five years, Reuters reported. 

The fuel-cell dream isn’t dead: Toyota isn’t laying all its bets on battery-powered EVs. The company has also developed a hydrogen-powered fuel-cell car, the Mirai, which can be bought or leased in California. The bet is that consumers or perhaps long-haul truckers will prefer the ease and speed of hydrogen refueling over prolonged battery recharging. Of course, it won’t be close to convenient for anyone unless regions first build networks of hydrogen fueling stations.

David Hart, director of the Center for Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy at George Mason University, said, in an email …


“Toyota has long been seen as the

proponent of fuel cells. I doubt that

they’ve given up on that entirely, but

clearly they are coming to terms with

the fact that batteries are here now and

fuel cells’ time is in the future if ever.”


Here’s a third article, with extensive technical detail about car efficiency, that appeared in the 25 Feb 2011 issue of the Washington Post …


Briefly, the article is an announcement of a new Aptera car that is covered with PV panels, so that it charges as you drive. If you’re going faster than it can recharge, such as on a high-speed cross-country road trip, you can get sufficient recharge for 150 miles in just 15 minutes.  The issue of range-per-charge becomes irrelevant.

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The trend suggested by all three articles is that the shift to electric cars will grow … just as the shift from horse & buggy to the “horseless carriage” grew.  And the recharge station infrastructure needed to support the change is a lot easier to build than the construction of thousands of gas stations.

Aptera has a more revolutionary design, which may or may not gain acceptance. And it’s a two-seater.  But their use of PV in their skin and faster recharge, both make driving range far greater than that of gas-powered cars.

On March 15th, a new e-car battery was announced that increases range by 80%, so an e-car with a 120 mile range will now have a range of over 200 miles. VW will be using them in their new e-cars.  More importantly: new batteries and technology will continue, supporting the transition to e-cars.

Having driven an e-car since 2013, powered by the PV panels on my home, driving is essentially free !  I can also add that maintenance costs have been a fraction of that of a gas car.  Other than brakes and tires, they simply have to “check the battery and filters” … for roughly 20% of what we spent on our gas car.

My suggestion:  The trend is clear.  I think about what I did as a kid, and computers were not a remote part of my life.  Today, kids have laptops before they start kindergarten!  It’s not a question of “if” but “when.”

If you make the shift sooner than later, you can still get some trade-in value for your gas car. You can already select from a range of brands and e-car models, including SUVs and panel trucks.

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