Japanese newspaper Nikkei reported on a rumor last week that next years’ Toyota Prius model will boast even more fuel efficiency, thanks to a set of rooftop solar panels. Toyota won’t comment either way – but this got Technology Review asking, “Does car-mounted solar make sense?”
More than a decade ago, Mazda souped up its 929 luxury sedan with solar cells embedded into the sunroof. The optional feature powered small fans that ventilated the car while it was parked in the sun. Not a bad idea. But like most of the car-mounted panels that followed Mazda’s design, the cost never quite matched the usefulness.
“Most onboard solar systems to date have cost several thousand dollars while generating less than 100 watts of energy, [enough to power a single light bulb]," reports Technology Review. That much energy improves “a vehicle’s fuel efficiency by just a few percent.”