clothes and bags that generate power? imagining new possibilities for renewable energy.

Have you ever imagined clothes and bags that generate electricity as you walk around town? Such a dream could eventually become a reality.


Imagine a world where solar panels aren’t just boring, black slabs that stick out like sore thumbs on rooftops. What if, they can be seamlessly blended into their surroundings, adding a touch of aesthetic appeal to urban landscapes?

Well, that’s what Toyota is trying to achieve with its approach to solar power.

Let’s start with a quick overview of the current state of solar energy in Japan. The country has set an ambitious target of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, which means a significant increase in the use of renewable energy sources.

One popular choice is solar power, but there’s a catch. To meet the national target by 2030, the number of solar panels installed would have to double, and Japan is facing a shortage of available flat land for traditional installations. Plus, let’s not forget the concerns of residents who want to preserve the natural beauty of their surroundings. Ugly solar panels? No please!

That’s where Toyota comes in with its game-changing solution: customizable solar panels that can be painted with various colours and patterns.

By integrating these panels into the walls of city buildings, they become part of the urban landscape rather than obtrusive additions. But hold on, you might ask. Doesn’t colouring solar panels block sunlight and reduce their efficiency?

Ah, that’s where Toyota’s expertise in car painting technology comes into play.

You see, Toyota has spent years perfecting its painting techniques to create stunning car designs. Now, they’re applying that knowledge to solar panels.

They’ve developed thin decorative films that can be applied to panels, allowing sunlight to pass through and generate electricity. The secret lies in the pigments used in automotive paint. These pigments are translucent, reflecting only specific colours while letting other light rays pass through to generate power. It’s a remarkable fusion of aesthetics and renewable energy.

To make this vision a reality, Toyota collaborated with Nippon Paint Automotive Coatings and F-WAVE, a solar cell manufacturer. Together, they created a world-first technology that combines colourful designs with efficient electricity generation. 

And boy are they useful. The panels could be used on buildings, clothes and bags, and even fan-equipped garments for those working under the scorching sun.

Now, you might be wondering why a carmaker like Toyota is diving into the world of solar power. Well, it’s a prime example of thinking outside the box and leveraging existing expertise. Taizo Masuda, Group Manager of Carbon Neutral Development, explains that this technology has the potential to go beyond powering buildings. Imagine attaching these panels to vehicles and creating “electricity-generating cars”. Now that’s exciting.

Of course, this journey hasn’t been without its challenges. Initially, solar power research at a car company raised eyebrows and wasn’t a top priority. But Masuda and his team persevered, driven by their passion and guided by the visionary leadership of Chairman Toyoda. Their dedication is paying off, with the technology gaining interest from a wide range of industries, including sporting goods, advertising, and urban development.

There’s still work to be done, though. Toyota’s researchers are committed to overcoming hurdles and reducing costs to make this technology accessible to the masses. But their unwavering passion and purposeful approach are propelling them forward, closer to the goal of delivering carbon-neutral solutions that only a carmaker with Toyota’s expertise can achieve.

So, my friends, keep your eyes on the horizon because a world where solar panels are as beautiful as they are functional is within our reach. Toyota is leading the way, painting a brighter and more sustainable future, one solar panel at a time.


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Sean Loo

Ignition Labs' resident editor loves all things retro, even though he was born in the late 90s. His main job encompasses tons of driving (and a massive carbon footprint), but he swears he turns off the lights each time he leaves his room.

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