I don’t like when companies don’t even try.

According to a Reuters article, Toyota is planning on introducing optional solar panels to their Prius models when they’re redesigned next year.

The article reports:

The panels, supplied by Kyocera Corp, would be able to power part of the air-conditioning on high-end versions of the gasoline-electric Prius, the source said.

“It’s more of a symbolic gesture,” said the source, who asked not to be identified. “It’s very difficult to power much more than that with solar energy.”

If the solar panels could completely power the air-conditioning, they could add a timer so you could program it to start ten minutes before the end of your work-day. You’d find your car completely cool when you leave work. While sweet, this would be far more useful in areas that aren’t subject to snow for half the year.

Calling it a symbolic gesture seems like conceding failure. That’s a shame because others have done better. Others like Solar Electrical Vehicles. They’ve got a kit that covers the entire roof of the car with solar panels. These charge a supplemental battery that provides up to 20 miles a day of electric diving range.

In my situation, this is 60% of the distance I drive to and from work each day. If the 20 mile figure is accurate, my gas consumption would drop to just 40% of what the Prius already offers.

The truth is probably somewhere between these two extremes but it’s disappointing to hear a Toyota insider claim the solar panels are a symbolic gesture good for little more than augmenting the air-conditioning.

Photo courtesy of Solar Electrical Vehicles