In November, Toyota unveiled its new 2023 Prius model: the Prius Prime, which comes with a built-in solar panel.
As Toyota shared in a press release, the Prius Prime continues a line of efficient, low-air pollution hybrid vehicles that began with 2009’s Prius Plug-In. Like its predecessors, this new Prius offers both a fully battery-powered mode and a hybrid mode with an emphasis on performance.
As always, owners save money by driving a hybrid thanks to the car’s lower fuel use. However, the solar panel offers added benefits for Prius Prime drivers. According to Toyota, the panel is used to power accessories like the car’s air conditioning, reducing the load on the car’s main battery.
Combined with a larger lithium-ion battery, this increases the car’s range in electric mode by more than 50%, the company claims. Previous models had a reported range of 25 miles, while the Prius Prime’s range should be close to 50 miles.
The panel itself has a stealthy design to maintain the car’s sleek appearance. It simply looks like a black car roof, with no visible wires or electrodes. Toyota says it also offers an alternative roof design made of solar glass.
Solar cars from multiple companies are starting to hit the market, and according to a recent report, the industry will be worth over $535 million by 2030. Cars with the ability to generate power independently through a solar panel cost less to drive since you don’t have to buy as much gas or electricity to power them. This could make them much more affordable for drivers on a budget.
At the same time, growing availability and falling prices for electric cars — including solar cars — are making them much more common, which is great news for the environment. Gas-powered cars produce heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide from the fuel they burn, warming up the planet. The more people switch to electric cars, the fewer heat-trapping gases drivers will produce, and the easier it will be to cool down our planet.
“This plug-in hybrid model has continued to offer customers the flexibility of getting around town on zero-emission battery power or hybrid mode for fuel-efficient road tripping,” Toyota wrote in its press release. “And now, this plug-in offers a thrilling experience in its own right — by bringing even more performance and technology to an already incredible package.”
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