Toyota’s next-generation Prius hybrids will sport solar panels, Reuters reports. The company will use solar panels from Kyocera.
Toyota remodeled the Prius with an improved hybrid system in 2003 and is expected to launch a third-generation version, which will include the solar panels, by next year.
The solar cell is reportedly so small it will only generate “part of the two to five kilowatts needed to power the air-conditioning” on the car, Yahoo Tech reports. Yahoo says that even if solar panels cover the entire roof, they probably won’t yield more than a few hundred watts of power.
But Earth2Tech points to an interesting white paper that finds that a solar-powered Prius could actually reduce gas consumption by 17 to 29 percent.
But the idea of solar panels on a car could go a long way in driving sales: “The solar arrays should be a very visible symbol of not only a car-buyer’s eco-savvy, but his or her wealth, as well. In an era of $4-plus gas, that could add a new social strata above the SUV drivers who have watched their vehicles lose cultural currency quickly in the past few months,” The Daily Green reports.