Toyota Wants to Build a Solar Car That Can Run Forever

Toyota Motor Corp. has teamed up with Sharp Corp. and New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization of Japan to build a car that could potentially run forever.
Loukia Papadopoulos

A new project by Toyota Motor Corp., Sharp Corp. and New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization of Japan, or NEDO, is seeking to build a Prius that could essentially run forever. They aim to do this through a solar-powered car.


Independent of charging facilities

“The solar car’s advantage is that — while it can’t drive for a long range — it’s really independent of charging facilities,” told Bloomberg Koji Makino, a project manager at Toyota.

Solar-powered cars offer the advantage of not needing to be plugged anywhere. If a battery can be created that can give the car power at night it could potentially run forever.

We are a long way from that though. Currently, a Prius plug-in hybrid that sells for more than 3 million yen has solar panels as an option. 

However, the vehicle only charges when parked and the maximum amount of power for driving only lasts about 6 kilometers (about 4 miles). Still, the team has made some impressive breakthroughs in its new research and development involving a new solar-powered Prius that has been tested since July.

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Impressive breakthroughs

For starters, they have produced solar panels that convert sunlight at an efficiency level of more than 34%, compared with about 20% for current panels on the market. Furthermore, they have engineered solar cells of about 0.03 mm thick that can be placed on the car's roof, hood and hatchback.

This means that the car can be equipped with an electrical system that can charge the vehicle even when it’s on the move. Mitsuhiro Yamazaki, director at the solar energy systems division of NEDO, states that if the car is only driven four days a week for a maximum of 50 kilometers a day, it does not need to be plugged in anywhere.

Not bad! Not bad at all Toyota.

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