A new variant of the Toyota Prius has been launched in Japan, with the plug-in hybrid having its internal rechargeable battery also boosted externally by a set of solar cells on the sedan's roof. It's an option for both Japanese and US buyers, but we won't get it in Australia in the foreseeable future.
Toyota Australia has ruled out plug-in hybrids for the time being — unsurprising with the runaway success of its various current hybrid models — but the new plug-in Prius has just been launched internationally.
The Prius PHV, or Prius Prime in the US, has a 1.8-litre, 4-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine mated to a 8.8kWh lithium-ion battery and 95kW electric motor. The car is capable of achieving up to 35km range from its battery system alone, but the roof-mounted panels could increase overall by as much as 10 per cent. As well as charging the battery while parked, the solar cells can power the car's air conditioning and lights during operation.
CarAdvice points out that the new Prius wouldn't be the first car to be launched in Australia with a solar panel roof, though — it was an option on the original 2009 Skoda Superb, which used the panels to power a ventilation system to cool the car on hot days, and a similar feature was available on the Audi A8 limousine. [Toyota / CarAdvice]