The new Toyota electric car that runs without needing charging may sound impossible, but Toyota, Sharp, and NEDO, the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization of Japan have joined forces to hopefully make this a reality.
They paired together the best solar panels in the market with the most efficient batteries available not to mention years worth of experience with car-manufacturing, the automotive companies are hoping, theoretically, to produce electric cars that might run forever.
According to Koji Makino statement during an interview with Bloomberg, “The solar car’s advantage is that while it can’t drive for a long-range it’s really independent of charging facilities,”
Even if fully electric cars are overtaking petroleum-powered vehicles in sales, they still need to be plugged in, which means building a network of charging stations across the globe. The sun, on the other hand, shines everywhere for free, and when that energy is paired with enough battery capacity to propel automobiles at night.
The solar-powered cars could leapfrog all the new-energy technologies being developed, from plug-in hybrids to hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, in one fell swoop. But the current forecast is only partly sunny because there’s still some work left to reach that level of efficiency.
Takeshi Miyao said,
“This is not a technology we are going to see widely used in the next decades,” an auto analyst at consultancy Carnorama. “It’s going to take a long time.”
Not for lack of trying. Toyota and Hyundai Motor Co. already introduced commercial models with solar panels on the roof, but they were too underpowered and could barely juice the sound system.
Mitsuhiro Yamazaki, director at the solar energy systems division of NEDO said,
A Prius plug-in hybrid that sells for more than 3 million yen offers solar panels as an option, but they only charge the battery when parked. The maximum amount of power for driving only lasts about 6 kilometres (about 4 miles).
Toyota has been testing a new solar-powered Prius since July, though it acknowledges that cars running nonstop without connecting to a hose or plug are still far away. Even so, the Toyota City-based company said the research will pay off in other ways.
Indeed, there have been some breakthroughs, mainly due to advancements by Sharp. The prototype’s solar panel converts sunlight at an efficiency level of more than 34%, compared with about 20% for current panels on the market.
The solar cell being used by Toyota, Sharp and NEDO is only about 0.03 mm thick, it can be placed on more surfaces, including the curvy parts of the roof, hood and hatchback. The electrical system can charge the Toyota electric car even when it is on the move.
NEDO’s Yamazaki said, If the Toyota electric car is driven for 4 days a week for a maximum of 50 kilometres a day, there’s no need to plug into an outlet
Toyota’s bet on solar is one of many that Japan’s No. 1 carmaker is placing on the future of transportation. With Volkswagen AG and other auto titans facing uncertain futures as new technologies and business models ripple through the $2.23 trillion global industry, they’re investing billions of dollars in cars powered by electricity and hydrogen to keep apace.
NEDO started the current project of the Toyota electric can in 2016 with the goal of achieving an output of 1 kilowatt in vehicles by using a solar-battery module with a conversion efficiency of more than 30%.
Sharp, one of Japan’s largest makers of solar panels, is developing the solar-cell technologies with NEDO funding, while Toyota is responsible for making the system to convert energy into driving power.
Toyota electric car’s greatest potential markets will be sunny climes, such as California and western China, NEDO will evaluate whether it’s also suitable for cities such as Tokyo, a key assessment for deciding whether to mass-produce the vehicle, Makino said. The current trial is scheduled to run through March.
The Toyota electric car demo is covered by about 1,100 cells, each about the size of a business card, The expense of the cells makes mass production unlikely for now. Hiroyuki Juso, a senior manager at Sharp’s solar panel project said. For more, Read Toyota Is trying to figure out how to make a car run forever
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