07/08/2008, 00.00
JAPAN
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Toyota launches solar panel hybrid

The panels will help power the car's air conditioning system. The solution is aimed at satisfying the growing demand for "green" vehicles, but the difficulty remains of using solar energy to power the engine.

Toyota (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Toyota, the Japanese auto industry giant, has installed solar panels on some of the models of its new Prius (see photo), the first hybrid vehicle produced by the company. The decision of the Japanese firm is intended to satisfy the increasing demand for "green" cars, and to address the problem of rising fuel prices.

According to the Japanese newspaper Nikkei, the new models will be provided with solar panels on the roof, which will provide from 2 to 5 kilowatts of electricity; this will be used to help power the air conditioning system for " luxury " models. There nevertheless remains the difficulty of using solar energy to power the vehicle itself, but there is a symbolic value at the basis of designers' decision, aimed at reducing "polluting emissions" in any way possible.

This third edition of the Prius will also use two engines, one electric and the other petrol powered. A Toyota spokesman did not want to specify how much the installation of the solar panels will cost - Japanese multinational Kyocera will take care of the installation - or the number of vehicles that will be produced with the panels. The Prius was the first hybrid card to be produced on a large scale: it came onto the Japanese market in 1997, and to the rest of the world in 2000. To date, 1 million of the cars have been sold.

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