When Toyota Motor Co. first introduced its Prius hybrid, one of its most requested option items was a moonroof. But the added weight of an overhead glass panel did not match the fuel-sipping demand that is the core of the car's reason to exist.
When Toyota debuted its updated Prius in 2009, it had a sunroof, but one with an integrated solar panel to help the system generate electricity and offset the weight of the glass and cool the interior on hot days.
With its upcoming midsize Prius V part of a new family of Prius products Toyota City, Japan-based Toyota introduced Jan. 10 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit the car gets a moonroof, but one made of glazed polycarbonate to provide the desired aesthetic touch without the same weight problems.
Bob Carter, group vice president for Toyota Motor Sales USA, said the roof was a first for the company and would provide drivers with a more open feeling.
Toyota's Scion brand has used PC on some limited applications previously, but the Prius V will mark Toyota's first global use, the automaker said. PC also has been used in some rear window and sunroof applications, but has not yet won widespread acceptance in the market for those parts.
It is not alone, said Amanda Roble, manager for the Americas for Sabic Innovative Plastics US LLC. All automakers are actively considering the use of PC for a variety of parts, while suppliers also are considering how to integrate the technology into their production.
For the Prius V, a family-sized car Toyota named for its versatility, plastics allow the company to offer more options without losing performance.
In addition to coming in 40 percent lighter than a standard glass system, the company said, the coating also will provide more heat resistance when the Prius V is parked in the sun.