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Toyota Prius Prime Will Use Solar Panels on the Roof to Help Charge the Battery

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Toyota Prius Prime Solar Panels

As the poster child for hybrid cars around the world, the Toyota Prius has a mighty reputation to uphold—it’s a good thing, then, that Toyota is ever on the lookout for new ways to improve efficiency. Recently, it revealed its latest scheme involving the Prius: adding solar panels to the roof.

The panels will be a new feature on the upcoming 2017 Toyota Prius Prime—formerly known as the Prius Plug-In—that will give its batteries a bit of extra juice to extend the car’s electric-only range.

It’s hard to say at this point just how much additional power the solar panels will provide, though Toyota estimates an overall efficiency boost of about 10%, which would increase its expected city fuel economy to approximately 66 mpg.

This isn’t the first time the automaker has offered solar panels on the roof of a Prius. An optional panel was available with the 2010 model, but it was smaller and only able to power the climate control inside the car.

Unfortunately, though the 2017 Prius Prime is set to arrive in the United States by the end of the year, the solar panel technology will be limited to European and Japanese markets for the time being.

This is because the reinforced glass sheeting upon which the solar panels are installed doesn’t pass the stricter rollover crash tests in the United States, and Toyota is currently unable to laminate the photovoltaic cells in a resin that won’t shatter dangerously during a rollover.

Nonetheless, Toyota is hard at work on finding a solution to bring the technology stateside, and expects to accomplish this within the Prius Prime’s lifecycle.