It was announced a while back that Toyota was planning on having solar panels on the roof of their 2010 model Prius. I got excited to hear that--until I heard that the panels were to power a "fan to cool the interior when parked on sunny days".
Good grief. Hot interiors of cars have been with us since the creation of enclosed passenger compartments. We've learned to live with it. You know... duh... roll down the window.
What I was excited about was the use of solar panels on a car that has an electric motor and storage batteries. If I bought one of those "solar-panel Prius"... I'd try to find a way to disconnect the solar panel wires from the stupid little fan and instead use the solar panels to help keep the storage batteries charged for keeping the engine running. Already there are folks out there working on modifying the HEV (Hybrid Electric Vehicles) to be PHEVs (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles). So, if you could put the solar on the roof to charge the batteries and then convert the gasoline engine to run on used cooking oil (biofuel), you'd NEVER be dependent on a gas station again. PERIOD.
Well... someone else has improved on that idea... and did it better.
New York Times Writer Thomas L. Friedman was attending the Energy and Resources Institute Climate Conference in New Delhi and met Caroline Howe, 23, a mechanical engineer on leave from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and Alexis Ringwald, a Fulbright scholar in India. These two young women convinced the CEO of India's Reva Electric Car Company to donate 3 of his company's cars--each retrofitted with longer-life batteries (good for 90 miles on a 6-hour charge) and a solar panel on the roof. The women then drove the cars around India (2,100 miles from Chennai to New Delhi) as a demonstration of innovative alternate energy capabilities. You can read more about this event and these alternate energy entrepreneurs here.