Toyota to America: Sorry, No Solar Prius Roof for You

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
toyota to america sorry no solar prius roof for you

Hybrid fans looking to harvest free solar power as they drive (or park) won’t get that ability when the Toyota Prius Prime arrives in the U.S. this fall.

The automaker announced that European and Japanese buyers will get a solar roof version of the plug-in sedan, but Stateside customers will have to wait, Automotive News reports. Toyota faces an engineering and regulatory hurdle in the U.S. — America has stricter crash regulations, and its engineers haven’t been able to create a solar panel mount that doesn’t shatter during rollovers.

In Japan, the panels are placed atop a reinforced glass sheet, and guess what those do when they’re crushed? The solution would be to laminate the panels into a shatter-proof resin, but the company hasn’t found a way to do it.

Speaking to reporters in Tokyo yesterday, Koji Toyoshima, chief engineer of the Prius line, said the company hopes to introduce a solar-topped version in the U.S. sometime after its introduction.

The Prius Prime sports an 8.8 kWh battery pack that allows 22 miles of all-electric driving at speeds up to 84 miles per hour. Having a solar roof would boost efficiency and range by about 10 percent, with drivers able to trickle charge their battery while parked in the sun.

Once the automaker finds a solution and lowers production costs, Toyoshima said he’d like to see solar roofs slapped onto other hybrid products in the company’s lineup.

[Image: Toyota Motor Corporation]

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7 of 36 comments
  • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on Jun 17, 2016

    I can't imagine what it will cost to replace one of these things after it's been hailed on. Gulp.

    • Thinkin... Thinkin... on Jun 17, 2016

      Most existing panels are designed to endure nature's worst, atop a roof, for a minimum of 25 years. I don't think hail will be a problem.

  • Carfan94 Carfan94 on Jun 17, 2016

    Surprised nobody's mentioned the solar roof that was offered as an option on the previous generation north american market Prius, although it was only used to cool the cabin down while parked in the sun. It did not use the A/C, It just used the fans to ventilate the cabin, and bring down the temperature of the cabin down to the outside ambient temperature. The Mazda 929 also had this feature as an option.

    • Thinkin... Thinkin... on Jun 17, 2016

      Ditto, and it always bugged me that Toyota wouldn't sell the solar roof on their plug-in Prius model. The big problem, as seen in some of the replies agile, is that if a car has a solar panel in its roof, people somehow will want that panel to magically power the car to infinity and beyond. And when that isn't the case, those people somehow identify that as a problem with solar power and/or EVs.

  • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Jun 17, 2016

    If you're flipped over and the glass shatters, gravity sez it's just going onto the road anyway. NBD, they're already gonna have to clean crap up! Durr.

    • 05lgt 05lgt on Jun 18, 2016

      Some rollover crashes are... dynamic. Ask around.

  • Shaker Shaker on Jun 17, 2016

    I mean, the solar panel is cool, and very efficient, but in northern latitudes, it just won't add any useful range to the car. But, for keeping the traction battery from going dead in a long-term parking scenario, yes, 100-300 watts could do that (if it's not covered in snow).