Pictured above is a solar charging station under development by Toyota. The company has plans to open the first of 21 in the Spring of 2010, signaling a move by Toyota to become a vertically integrated company. First, make the plug-in car. Then, build the charging station that it plugs in to. It’s comparable to the same company both digging up the oil, and building the car that runs on the oil. But better.

In many ways this is an understandable move. Toyota has held a leadership position in the hybrid market, and, as such, the company has long resisted any mention of a future move to plug-in vehicles. Why cut sales short, with all the expense that that entails: retooling assembly lines and so on – when yours is the market leader?

The silence went on so long that dealers were actually accepting (unasked for) deposits from customers who were determined to force Toyota to make the Prius a plug-in.

As a result, many companies have offered aftermarket plug-in conversions for the Prius. But now that Toyota has in fact quietly perfected its plug-in version of the popular Prius, even Toyota is finally openly talking up plug-ins and now setting its sights even higher.

To begin with, 21 solar charging stations will be built by the city government in Toyota City, Japan, a small prefecture East of Nagoya that originally made silk, now named for the auto company. Next April they will begin operation, powering Toyota Prius plug-in hybrids.

The 1.9KW solar system roof will power the Priuses underneath them when they are parked there to recharge. When there is no Prius under the panels, it will send the excess electricity to a 8.4KWh storage battery on-site, until the next Prius draws up.

If no Prius parks under it and the battery fills up, it would then send any remaining electrons to the grid, and get payments from the local utility, for the electricity produced. Maximum output using solar grid power is 202VAC/3.2kW. Self-sustained operation using solar power from the battery pack has a maximum output of 101VAC/1.5 kVA.

TIC envisions that the station would also be able to provide power to electrical equipment in a disaster. The 200V/16A/3.2kW output charging system has the communication capability to support electronic billing of the amount of power used by allowing user authentication using IC card technology. It also enables the collection of data such as usage conditions of the charging service.

I wonder if they plan to ultimately sell single units of these to private homeowners as solar garages? Once the station is paid for, that sun makes free fuel forever. That is real independence.

Source: Green Car Congress