Prius to get solar cooling

From the Associated Press

Toyota's Prius gas-electric hybrid will become even greener next year with solar-powered air conditioning on some high-end models, Japanese business daily Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported Monday.

The solar panels on the roof of the new Prius model will provide 2 to 5 kilowatts of electricity, the newspaper said in a report without citing sources.

Toyota Motor Corp. plans to purchase the panels from Japanese electronics maker Kyocera Corp., the newspaper said.

Toyota spokesman Paul Nolasco declined to comment.

A Toyota executive, speaking on condition of anonymity because product plans are not supposed to be disclosed to the media ahead of time, has said details on what would be a third-generation Prius probably would be revealed in May of next year.

Sales of the Prius have been booming as a result of soaring gasoline prices and growing worries about global warming. A hybrid delivers better mileage by switching between a gasoline-fueled engine and an electric motor.

Toyota has made hybrid technology the pillar of its growth strategy, promising to deliver hybrids in every model in its lineup soon after 2020. Toyota has sold more than 1 million Prius models over the last decade and is planning to sell 1 million hybrids a year sometime after 2010.

Toyota is also pursuing an aggressive strategy for ecologically sound production by using solar panels and other technology at its plants.

Adding solar panels to a model targeting mass consumers would mark a first for a major automaker, said the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, widely known as the Nikkei.

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