Toyota Goes Bold
Even Toyota, the maker of the much revered Toyota Prius, has been unable to escape the fallout from the economic downturn. In fact, Toyota just posted its first operating loss in 70 years, and the company is responding with bold plans for innovative new vehicles. For instance, we've known for a while that Toyota has been planning a solar-assisted Prius (a hybrid vehicle with a rooftop solar panel to help power onboard electronics). Now, however, there are reports that "Toyota Motor Corp. is secretly developing a vehicle that will be powered solely by solar energy." Read on for more. This news comes after previous announcements by Toyota that they are developing a plug-in version of the Prius. The solar Prius appears to be Toyota's version of the Chevy Volt--a bold new design aimed at stimulating sales and positioning the company as an innovative leader.
A Truly Solar Powered Car?
At the moment, "Toyota is working on an electric vehicle that will get some of its power from solar cells equipped on the vehicle, and that can be recharged with electricity generated from solar panels on the roofs of homes." However, the plan is to eventually "develop a model totally powered by solar cells on the vehicle" according to the Nikkei newspaper. That said, it isn't clear if it's even possible for rooftop arrays to power an entire car given the efficiency of current solar cells and the limited surface area on a vehicle. Most likely, the solar cells will augment electric power from a wall outlet and/or gasoline.
Still, Toyota is well positioned to leverage the latest in solar technology, thanks to a partnership with Panasonic Corp, which makes hybrid batteries but is also about to take over Sanyo Electric Co, "a leader in solar energy." And if vehicle sales don't start picking up, Toyota-and other automakers--will be forced to turn to innovation to revive sales. Hopefully that innovation will come in the form of efficiency, because the alternative is for automakers to find innovative ways to entice people to buy existing models--which seems to be GM's sole strategy at the moment.
Via: Yahoo News
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