Why you can’t order a Toyota Prius with a roof-mounted solar panel

Toyota Prius Prime
In Japan, the plug-in hybrid version of the new Toyota Prius will be available with a large solar panel built into the roof when it goes on sale in the fall. Buyers in Europe will also be able to order the panel, but don’t look for it on the list of options if you live in the United States.

That’s because the solar panel is installed on reinforced glass sheeting that shatters in the event of a rollover. That’s acceptable in Europe and in Japan, but the setup doesn’t comply with safety regulations in the U.S. Toyota still hasn’t found a way around the issue.

Where there’s a will, however, there should be a way, and the Japanese firm is committed to offering its greenest model with a built-in solar panel in the not-too-distant future.

Toyota Prius plug-in solar panel

“We would like to introduce this, at least in the lifetime of the current model. It should be possible to do a lot of charging this way in places like California or Arizona,” said Koji Toyoshima, the chief engineer of the Prius and the Prius plug-in hybrid, in a recent interview with Automotive News.

The solar panel stretches nearly the entire length of the roof. When the Prius is parked, the electricity generated by the panel is sent directly to the battery pack. When it’s running, the electricity is used to power accessories such as the A/C, the lights, and the power windows. Toyota promises that adding a solar panel to the Prius makes it about 10-percent more efficient, though more specific figures haven’t been announced yet.

Read more: How this man got a new Tundra for free from Toyota

Toyota engineers are busily developing a way to offer the solar panel on our shores. We don’t know when it will arrive yet, but it’s safe to assume that it will be available as an extra-cost option.

Emerging Tech

Bill Nye the Science Guy talks “solar sailing” and the new space race

If successful, The Planetary Society’s LightSail 2 will be a milestone in spaceflight, the first craft to raise its orbit around the planet using just the power of sunlight.
Cars

BMW is planning high-performance hybrids, as well as hot-rodded EVs

BMW development chief Klaus Fröhlich told Digital Trends he thinks the company's M division will release a high-performance hybrid after 2025. In the meantime, it will focus on leveraging the benefits of plug-in hybrid tech to boost…
Outdoors

Check out the best new gear from the Summer Outdoor Retailer 2019 convention

At the 2019 summer Outdoor Retailer convention in Denver, Colorado the top gear manufacturers revealed the latest and greatest camping, hiking, and backpacking products to keep us safe and comfortable.
Product Review

The 2020 Ford Explorer shows why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover

The 2020 Ford Explorer emerges from a redesign on a new rear-wheel drive platform, boasting hybrid and sporty ST models for the first time. Ford pulled out all the stops to keep the Explorer on top.
Cars

Airbus-backed Voom could take on Uber’s on-demand flying taxi service

Airbus-backed Voom says it's planning to take its on-demand helicopter taxi to more U.S. cities this fall, a move that could put it in direct competition with Uber's app-based air taxi service launching soon in New York City.
Cars

Volvo invented the three-point seat belt, and it might be the company that kills it

Volvo didn't invent the seat belt, but the firm patented the three-point configuration found in every new car in 2019. Autonomous technology will force automakers to rethink how they keep motorists pinned to their seats, and Volvo is…
Product Review

2020 Mercedes GLS shows what happens when unstoppable force meets immovable luxury

The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLS is more than a luxury family-hauler. Yes, it’s got all the luxury features and all the bells and whistles of modern technology, but this three-row Teutonic tank has some serious off-road chops as well.
Cars

Airstream inspiration Road Chief puts an off-grid luxury camper on the road

Updated for off-grid camping for four people, the Bowlus Road Chief Endless Highways awaits your tow hitch and your wallet. Bowlus design, build quality, and technology in a world-class trailer towable by most mid-sized SUVs.
Cars

Ford promises exciting GT supercar news at Goodwood Festival of Speed

Ford will make an announcement regarding its GT supercar at the 2019 Goodwood Festival of Speed. The GT's racing career is winding down, but could Ford be planning a hotter road-going version?
Cars

This ’60s Ford Mustang EV has Tesla-like specs and a Rolls-Royce-like price

British startup Charge Cars planted its flag where electric cars and muscle cars meet when it unveiled a battery-powered 1960s Ford Mustang. Starting with a reproduction shell, the firm added an electric powertrain and modern electronics.
Cars

U.S. firm plans to power soccer stadiums using aging Nissan Leaf batteries

We've heard of aging EV batteries being repurposed to power homes and other facilities, but how about an entire sports stadium? An American firm is already doing just that, and now has plans to expand its system across Europe.
Cars

Think hybrids can’t be sporty? BMW’s Vision M Next is here to prove you wrong

BMW unveiled a concept named Vision M Next that shows what sports cars could look like in the not-too-distant future. It is a plug-in hybrid model with 600-hp, and a driver-focused interior packed with futuristic tech features.
Cars

Chevrolet’s in-car pizza-ordering app is the start of an ecommerce revolution

Chevrolet has added Domino's in-car pizza delivery app to Marketplace, an ecommerce platform that equips millions of cars built since 2017. Users can order a pizza on-the-go by tapping the screen a few times, and have it delivered where…
Cars

It’s tough to buy a fully American-made car, but here’s 15 that come close

In the age of global supply chains, tariffs, and multinational companies, what does it mean to be American-made? The traditional answers no longer apply, and the vehicles with the most American content may surprise you.