Panasonic Shows Off New Solar Roof For Japanese Toyota Prius Prime

While the integration of solar cells into the roofs of consumer vehicles has always generated a fair amount of criticism — owing to the cost-to-benefit ratio — the idea is still one that grabs many people’s attention.

Panasonic apparently took some of the common criticisms of the idea into account with the creation of its new solar roof for the Japanese version of the Toyota Prius Prime, with the company claiming that it’s new setup is capable of generating up to 180 watts, not bad for a solar roof.

Toyota claims that the solar roof can provide the Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid (PHEV) with around 3.7 miles of range a day when parked outside. Notably, the panel doesn’t change the shape of the Prius Prime’s roof — the contours and drag coefficient are the same.

Autoblog provides some interesting context:

“Something that makes this rather interesting is that Panasonic has very close ties to Tesla. The companies build batteries at the Gigafactory, and they planned to work on solar cells after Tesla acquired SolarCity. That particular collaboration seemed oriented towards the home solar panel market, particularly with the presentation of Tesla’s solar roof tiles. However, Elon Musk has expressed interest in automotive solar panels.

“In November, Musk talked about the possibility of a solar roof option for the Model 3 on Twitter. Nothing concrete was discussed, but the possibility seems stronger now in light of the Panasonic announcement. Panasonic also said in its press release that the company is looking to expand the availability of its automotive solar technology. It would seem like the the Model 3 would be the perfect opportunity for both companies.”

Regarding Elon’s tweets about a potential solar roof on the Tesla Model 3, we covered them back in November when Elon launched that tweetstorm. It was when Tesla unveiled a glass roof for the Model S. Elon said at the time that Tesla would probably offer a solar roof as an option on the Model 3. He also said it wouldn’t be super expensive. Here are a handful of tweets from back then:

I have to wonder, though, about the “look at me” quality of the solar cells on the Prius Prime roof. They don’t seem to match the Tesla Model 3 design aesthetic. Presumably, if Tesla was to use a solar roof on its vehicles, it would be relatively inconspicuous, like its new residential solar roof/shingle products.

James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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