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More electric talk, but real exciting this time

Now that we’ve officially entered the electric vehicle (EV) era, the current objective isn’t necessarily how to fabricate more and more EVs. But rather, improving the value proposition to buy an EV, and that starts with its power. EVs need electricity, obviously. That current comes through power stations. But something we’ve touched on earlier is what if said electricity charge could be harnessed while the car is driving. And better yet, what if it were free.

Sunlight, people, that very ball that emits its light and warmth upon us daily (unless you live in Seattle). But even if you live in Seattle there is enough of it. Toyota in conjunction with the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization of Japan (NEDO for short), have teamed up to outfit a Toyota Prius with solar panels which would allow the car to never have to recharge … ever again. The biggest barrier to full EV adoption is the infrastructure of charging stations that need to be rolled out. This is expensive while petrol stations have dominated the market for decades. Unseating them or even competing will be challenging to say the least.

NEDO openly admits this is not a technology that the world will see widely used over the next decade. In fact, Toyota and Hyundai already came out with a commercial car with solar panels on the roof, but they couldn’t power much. In short, the project quickly failed. Toyota has been testing their Prius for over 8 months now, and while development has been slow, a company named Sharp joined forces and managed to convert sunlight at an efficiency level of roughly 34%. This is compared to 20% for current market offers.  

If one compares the Prius PHV and the Solar Prius Prototype, on nearly every metric the Prototype wins out. It yields more solar conversion efficiency as mentioned above, sports a driving range of 44.5 kilometers compared to 1.6, and the driving range while charging is understandably superior – 56.3 kilometers compared to 0.  This has also peaked China’s interest which is testing the cars on what is known as “intelligent highways,” a highway that buries mapping sensors, electric rechargers and solar panels under transparent concrete. Hanargy Holding Group now has four cars powered exclusively by solar panels but they are not ready for street use as of yet.

This is honestly exciting news because it is the first breakthrough that addresses the elephant in the room – how to power an industry with charging stations where gas stations have already beaten them to the market. If this can get moving we feel this is where an EV future is headed. 

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