The Toyota Prius, widely loved by Greenies worldwide, will sport a roof-mounted solar panel as an option in the car's 3rd generation production run. This will make all sorts of people happy until they read the smaller print:
(CNN) -- Toyota's third-generation Prius, due at dealerships this spring, will have an optional solar panel on its roof. The panel will power a ventilation system that can cool the car without help from the engine, Toyota says.
And that's it. That's all it does. You can activate the fan from a short distance from the car and it will cool the interior until it either reaches a pre-set temperature or the clouds roll in, whichever comes first.
This is the trouble with consumer-level solar panels these days. They're just not efficient enough to generate enough power to be usable on an automobile. If you had five times the surface area that the Prius has, maybe you could run something a bit more powerful. Still, it's a shame that this is as far as we've gotten with solar technology in the automotive industry.
Yes, I've seen the experimental half bicycle/half car solar vehicles that college students have been assembling, but until you can do something really interesting with automotive solar panels (ie., trickle-charge the car's battery), I'll wait to be sufficiently impressed.