Toyota to equip Prius with solar panels: report

TOKYO, July 7, 2008 (AFP) – Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp. plans to add solar panels to its popular Prius hybrid early next year to power the vehicle’s air conditioning, a newspaper report said Monday. As part of a complete design makeover, the Prius will be fitted with rooftop solar panels on its high-end models, the Nikkei economic daily said without naming sources.

If it happens, Toyota, in a close race with General Motors for the title of the world’s top automaker, would be the first major carmaker to use a solar power generation system on a mass-produced vehicle.

Toyota rolled out the Prius in 1997 as the first mass production petrol-electric hybrid. It was redesigned in 2003 and a third-generation Prius is widely expected to come soon.

Toyota declined to confirm the Nikkei report.

“We cannot comment on our product planning,” a company spokesman said.

The Nikkei said the solar panels on the roof would supply part of the power needed for the vehicle’s air conditioning.

The carmaker plans to produce some 450,000 Priuses at home in 2009, up 60 percent from 2007, the Nikkei said.