So our ears perked up when we heard Toyota is upgrading its Prius. Not only will it feature a hybrid electric-gasoline engine and automatic self-parking (see its robot skills in action here), but it will soon get solar panels on the roof to power its air-conditioning system.
That last bit might not sound too exciting, but it has potential. Automotive air-conditioning systems are usually powered by your car's engine, which has to work harder to keep the car moving and its occupants cool. By using a combination of a solar panel and an electric motor, Toyota is able to use the power of the sun against itself, save gas, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
It's a shame that these particular solar panels can't be used to power the entire vehicle, but there is hope: A U.S. company called SEV has already demonstrated a modified, solar-powered Prius that improves fuel economy by about 29 percent. According to SEV, this gives you a daily electric-only range of 20 miles.
We'll have to wait until 2009 to see whether Toyota's implementation makes a real difference, but in the meantime, you can watch our video review of the current Prius here.
(Source: Crave UK)