The Japanese technology corporation, famous for being Tesla’s battery partner of choice, is attacking new segments of the automotive business – solar car rooftops.
The Osaka-based electronics maker has recently kicked off assembly of a 180-watt array of solar cells that can be used as the roof of an automobile. The photovoltaic module’s first real world use is on the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid. While solar roofs for homes haven’t taken flight yet – maybe they will with the new Tesla design that integrates them directly in tiles – but companies also see lucrative business in the automotive industry after being seriously contested by Chinese manufacturers. “Car roofs have the potential to become a new market for solar panels,” comments Shingo Okamoto, the general manager at Panasonic. “We made history in the auto industry and in the solar industry with the sun powering mass-produced cars for the first time in the world.”
Tesla Chairman Elon Musk might be next beneficiary of the module – he has previously hinted in tweets the company’s Model 3 might have an optional solar roof. The new Prius plug in hybrid is the first mass-produced model with solar panels that deliver the energy directly to the car’s main battery – with the average distance traveled on a single charge from the rooftop solar panel can vary seasonally from 2.9 kilometers (1.8 miles) to 6.1 kilometers per day. “That means you get about 10 percent of annual mileage from solar just by letting your car sit,” Okamoto added.