Attempts to power hybrid cars with solar panels have been around for a few years. But now a company called Solar Electrical Vehicles is producing commercially available after-market panels for hybrids, starting with the Toyota Prius.
The fiberglass, molded panels fit on top of 2004-2007 Prius models. They are attached using an epoxy glue. Unlike previous attempts, these panels fit the curve of the roof.
To maximize your sun power and driving range, you need a larger battery installed than what comes standard with the Prius, according to company founder Greg Johanson, who says that battery storage is the most challenging aspect for solar-powered cars.
In terms of distance, the panels will get you up to 20 miles a day, depending on the size of the battery. They can improve fuel efficiency by up to 29 percent. The standard-equipped Prius battery, recharged by the sun, will take you about two miles at under 35 miles per hour.
Johansen said that because of tax credits, getting a 1 kilowatt solar electrical system on your home to charge your car can make better financial sense than getting a solar roof on your car. But that doesn't taking into account the cool factor.
"It is way cooler driving down the freeway and have people pulling up alongside and giving you a big thumbs up. It's hope for the future," he says.
Next up on their production plans is the hybrid Toyota Highlander and other SUVs.