The crux of any electric car, or even a hybrid for that matter, is that despite the best effort of engineers to make the drivetrain as frugal as possible, inevitably the driver becomes the most inefficient part of the vehicle.
Driving habits aside, climbing into a car on a sunny day can be quite uncomfortable and usually provokes full-blast operation of the air conditioning, using up fuel and increasing emissions.
Toyota has avoided this problem with its new Prius by introducing a new solar-powered ventilation system that keeps the interior cool, with no need for the engine to be running.
Integrated solar panels on the roof are used to power the electric air circulation fan which can cool cabin temperature down from 80 to 45°C – running independently from the engine – so there is less need for the air-conditioning to be used.
While 45°C may still be considered stifling hot, the system is intended to be used in conjunction with Toyota’s world-first Remote Air Conditioning.
Using a button on the keyfob, the air-conditioning can run for up to three minutes before the car is occupied, cooling the cabin down gradually and efficiently.
Such a system could not be supported by a conventional car battery and has only been made possible thanks to the Prius’s large capacity hybrid battery.
Both systems are available as optional extras for the UK market, although considering how suitable this would be for the Australian climate it is highly likely to be offered with local models.