Toyota has yet to verify the story, but the Japanese financial daily Nikkei is reporting that we're going to start seeing Priuses tricked out with solar panels at some point in 2009. The reported solar panels won't drive the engine or anything, but they may power the AC, which does seem like a good idea because one would assume some there would be some kind of correspondence between the power of the sun in any given location and the need for air-conditioning. LA = engorged panels, strained AC.
An unnamed source inside the company is quoted saying the panels are largely symbolic; you can't power much with a solar panel, and they're expensive to make, in part due to the rising cost of silicon. As far as symbolic gestures go, however, it's a pretty sweet one, the opposite of Reagan tearing the solar panels off the White House when he moved in. Putting a solar panel on the absolute latest, possibly only-in-Japan model of the hot car is like holding up a big sign saying "Solar is High Status." And that's an important step toward making reduced emissions a central part of keeping up with the Joneses.
Image: flickr/Beth and Christian