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Yet more rumors of a solar Prius

Japanese daily reports Toyota is "secretly" developing a solar-powered Prius. But we've heard this in one form or another for at least the last year.

A solar-paneled Prius done by Solar Electric Vehicles.

Toyota is developing a solar-powered Prius, the Nikkei newspaper has reported yet again.

It was interesting when we heard about this in July.

But it seems to us that someone over at Toyota has now been fake-leaking/hinting news about a solar-powered Prius in one form or another for at least the last year.

This wonder-car-in-the-making has gone from being a Toyota Prius that uses solar roof panels from Kyocera to power its air conditioning unit, to "a vehicle that will be powered solely by solar energy" to quote one recent Associated Press article.

You may find it interesting that this rumor always comes floating by on the heels of bad news from Toyota.

In July, it accompanied news of a series of Toyota plant closings/reorganizations in the U.S.

This latest rumor seems to be timed to follow Toyota's December news that it, too, has succumbed to the world auto industry slump, reporting its first annual operating loss in 70 years, and a series of consolidations and changes in its organizational structure.

Of course, there is already an available solar option for some Toyota owners in the U.S.

Solar Electrical Vehicles (SEV) has been offering an after-market Prius solar overhaul since June 2007. It includes a customized solar panel for a Prius roof that can improve the car's efficiency by about 29 percent. SEV also offers kits for the Toyota Highlander, Rav4 EV, and Ford Escape Hybrid.

For those who just like reading about the idea of a solar car, Canadian engineer Marcelo da Luz and his team have been blogging about their attempt to set the world long-distance record for a solar-powered car with the Power of One (Xof1) vehicle.