As poster boy for the green automotive movement, one expects more from Toyota and its 2010 Prius plug-in hybrid than solar panels to power the air conditioning. It’s true it’s been done before (see the 1992 Mazda 929, plus others)…yet that’s not the real disappointment. For a company that tells the world it’s all about green, this neat little marketing trick offers a little too show and not enough go. Then again, Toyota is really all about another kind of green, something the Prius has sure delivered – and in more ways than just car sales. We hope that Toyota takes one more step and goes beyond the gimmick to find a more complete way to use solar energy to power vehicles on a mass production scale.
After all, there are plenty of aftermarket shops working hard at finding ways to do it, and have been doing so for years. Perhaps a Prius hybrid that uses solar to charge its batteries while sitting in traffic and idling, and, as a result, uses solar power to motivate the vehicle forward during moments of gridlock…perhaps that’s possible? Last time I checked, freeways are woefully devoid of shade trees, and in fact a typical commute in southern California includes an hour or so of slow-moving traffic under a hot, stifling sun. That’s energy, yo – energy that could theoretically propel a car such as the Prius with even less need for fossil fuel, either via the engine or by plugging the car into the grid at night. While this may not boost fuel economy, it makes the Prius an environmental superstar.
Wow – what a concept. Here’s hoping that someone is working on making it happen. Perhaps Honda will be the automaker to debut a truly clean car, or maybe it’ll be GM and their Chevrolet Volt. That would probably push the Volt over $60,000, however, so uh – never mind. Then again, Toyota recently told journalists at the recent G-8 summit that the 2010 Prius hybrid would emit half of the car’s current CO2 emissions, so maybe they are working on something more than lith-ion batteries and cute futuristic designs.