Solar panels on car roofs? Yep, it’s a reality…and it’s smart!

On a hot summer day you walk up to your car and gasp to get inside. You rush to lower the windows, but still, whew…it is hot inside! The 3rd Generation 2010 Toyota Prius will combat this common problem. By installing photovoltaic solar cells on the roof, the sunlight powers the Prius’s ventilation fans to exchange hot inside air for the air outside. This keeps the inside temperature of the vehicle near the outside ambient temperature. Not only does it conserve energy by minimizing how hard the air conditioning has to work right when you jump in the car, I believe it has an added value. Even though the Prius will start to use ecological plastics in interior components, some conventional (petroleum based) plastic remains. The active ventilation system run by the solar panels will exchange “new car smell” air for outside air.

2010 Fisker Karma Plug-in Hybrid with Roof Solar Panels
2010 Fisker Karma Plug-in Hybrid with Roof Solar Panels
A new car, from a new company – Fisker Automotive (Est. 2007), will also feature solar panels on the roof. The 2010 Fisker Karma, a luxury plug-in hybrid sedan with a starting price of $87,900 (available later this year) uses a glass solar roof panel to help propel the vehicle, cool the inside air when parked, recharge the batteries, and provide power to accessories.

The 2009 Audi A8 uses a solar sunroof to exchange hot inside air for outside air when the ignition is off.

Solar panel integration with automobiles is exciting. As photovoltaic prices continue to decrease, we may see more integration in automobiles.

What do you think? Will we see more cars with solar roofs?

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Auto Upkeep 4th Edition

Michael Gray

Mike has roots in the automotive service industry. He began diagnosing and fixing cars at a young age in his family’s service station. He has worked in automotive parts supply stores, towing companies, and service facilities. After graduating from St. Cloud State University (MN) with a Bachelor’s degree, he implemented and taught a basic car care program at the high school level. During work on his Master’s degree at Illinois State University (IL), he was a curriculum specialist on a National Science Foundation project where he co-authored ten integrated mathematics, science, and technology books designed for team teaching. Mike has also supervised teachers in Career and Technology Education as a school system administrator.

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