Hybrids going solar with PV Prius

kathleen ambre

Recently, excessive energy consumption has evolved into a nationwide concern and has helped generate interest in new solar technologies. Familiar blue metallic solar panels normally reside on the roofs of houses and other buildings, but now—thanks to the family-owned company Solar Electrical Systems—they can be integrated into already environmentally friendly hybrid cars.

A company founded on the success of engineers Greg Johnson and Joel Davidson, who developed the first car powered exclusively by solar energy in 1984, Solar Electric Systems has exceeded expectations. In time the company utilized available technology to accommodate the Photovoltaic (PV) Prius, a car made by Toyota, by installing intricate systems to create a vehicle that runs on a combination of gasoline, electricity and solar power.

The solar module itself, installed over the top of the Hybrid, is fabricated from molded fiberglass to fit the structure and includes 146 four-inch square mono-crystalline cells that absorb and generate energy, while additional insulating and protective layers are bonded to these cells to ensure weather-resistant durability. This complex yet effective solar module is what sets the PV Prius apart from the stock Prius.

This Toyota Prius contains a battery that expends up to 1,300 watts per hour—11,000 watt hours equaling about one gallon of gasoline—and can go a maximum of 8 miles, all on solar power alone. Onlookers might be skeptical of the efficiency of such a vehicle, but this car flaunts a 17 to 29 percent reduction in gasoline consumption daily, not including the standard mileage benfits of driving a hybrid.

Saving the driver around 530 gallons of gasoline over its service life compared to the conventional Prius, a PV Prius purchase is a cost-effective way to contribute to the environment. “It’s definitely a worthy investment,” said the company’s sales and marketing coordinator Billy Bautista, “And for those that need a higher purpose to serve, it takes us closer to being green and leaving less of a carbon footprint.”

Solar technology provides clean renewable energy and cuts down on harmful car emissions while the integrated system ensures an even greater economic value. “The main difference is that the photovoltaic system on this car is rechargeable, replenish-able, and sustainable by sunlight. Gas burns, costs too much money, and is quickly dissipating,” said Bautista when comparing the two.
Due to the system’s cost effective and pro-environment benefits, sales for this California-based company have increased radically over the years. “The demand for our kits have skyrocketed from a dozen inquiries a week to over a hundred in a month, not counting the inquiries we get from foreign countries who have been driving hybrids and smart cars years ahead of us,” said Bautista.

Solar Electric Vehicles has also attracted customers from locations like Minneapolis, despite the city’s long sun-deprived winters. “Obviously location makes a difference as far as the absolute function of a solar kit. The photovoltaic kits we offer were built around an environment like California or Florida,” said Bautista, “But having them in Minnesota isn’t impossible and definitely feasible.”