Prius takes a ride to the US aboard solar-powered container ship
As the manufacturer of the world’s most famous hybrid car, it seems only fitting that Toyota has now begun shipping its Prius cars to the US using a container ship that could also qualify as a hybrid.
The Auriga Leader, the world’s first freighter to be partly powered using solar energy, has made its maiden voyage to the US from Japan, arriving at California’s Port of Long Beach earlier this month with a consignment of Prius cars and other Toyota vehicles.
Launched in December, the ship is equipped with 328 solar panels on its car carrier which can generate up to 40kW of energy.
The Auriga Leader’s solar array provides a supplementary source of clean energy to the ship, helping to reduce the load on its auxiliary engines. They also serve a double duty by helping to protect the vehicles from salt water, wind pressure and vibrations while at sea.
The freighter is a joint project from Japanese companies Nippon Yusen Kaisha and Nippon Oil Corp – which invested $1.68m (£1m) in the solar panel system – and is contracted exclusively to Toyota.
The Japanese automaker will use the Auriga Leader, which can carry up to 6,400 vehicles, to make bi-weekly trips between Japan and California.
In addition to having a green mode of overseas delivery, most Prius cars are produced in a solar-powered factory in Tsutsumi, located in central Japan. Its rooftop array produces 2MW of electricity per hour, meeting about half the plant’s energy requirements.
The latest version of the iconic car, which was launched in Japan in May and is expected in the UK this summer, also features a rooftop solar panel designed to provide power for the car’s cooling systems.