CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

Gadgets

Toyota to launch solar-powered Prius

By using a solar panel and electric motor combo, Toyota is able to use the power of the sun against itself, save petrol, and reduce CO2 emissions

We applaud any car manufacturer that harnesses the power of technology -- particularly if it helps fuel economy, driving fun, or makes us look cool. That's why we launched Car Tech.

So our ears perked up when we heard Toyota is upgrading its Prius. Not only will it feature a hybrid electric-petrol engine and automatic self-parking (see its robot skillz in action here), but it will soon get solar panels on the roof to power its air-conditioning system.

That last bit might not sound too exciting, but it has potential. Automotive air-con systems are usually powered by your car's engine, which has to work harder to keep the car moving, and its occupants cool. By using a solar panel and electric motor combo, Toyota is able to use the power of the sun against itself, save petrol, and reduce CO2 emissions.

It's a shame these particular solar panels can't be used to power the entire vehicle,  but there is hope: a US company called SEV has already demonstrated a modified, solar-powered Prius that improves fuel economy by around 29 per cent. According to SEV, this gives you a daily electric-only range of 20 miles.

We'll have to wait until 2009 to see whether Toyota's implementation makes a real difference, but in the meantime, you can watch our video review of the current Prius here. -Rory Reid