Melissa Liddle parked her Toyota Prius in front of their apartment building like she did every day. But this day was different. The next day she walked behind the car and saw the rear end of her Prius was wavy and distorted. It looked like it had melted in the Texas sun.
Energy-efficient windows are what is melting the Prius
The heat from the sun or extraterrestrial ray gun wasn’t the cause of her melted rear. It was because of the apartment’s energy-efficient windows. Yes, the same windows that keep homes cool were reflecting the sun’s rays directly at Liddle’s Prius.
The apartment windows have a tendency to distort from pressure and other causes. With the sun’s rays hitting the windows at a certain angle it creates powerful reflections. The concentration of the sun’s reflection can act as a magnifying glass, focussing light in one area.
Fortunately, these special conditions are not common. The right location of the car at the right time of the day makes for the perfect surroundings for this to happen. Otherwise, it is an extremely rare occurrence.
Solar convergence is not covered by the Prius manufacturer’s warranty
For Liddle, the perfect circumstances are of no interest to the manufacturer. According to KFI Los Angles, Toyota won’t cover the damage. “I’ve gone through the warranty and can’t find anything that says ‘Don’t park your car in the sun,’” she said. “Toyota thinks we should pay for it. They said it’s a phenomenon — solar convergence.”
Ah, yes, solar convergence. Basically, the energy-efficient apartment windows reflect glare. The solar reflection converges onto a specific area, and if it happens to be of a material that can melt under that intense heat, it melts. It is like a magnifying glass.
The good news is that they keep the house or apartment cooler. That doesn’t have anything to do with the melting Prius, but it is something positive. Cars are not the only vulnerable subjects. Vinyl siding is also prone to melting from solar convergence. It can be so concentrated it can even start a fire.
So what about Melissa Liddle and her melting Prius? Because the issue is from “environmental influence” it is not a warrantable repair. And think about it. If Liddle kept parking in the same parking area it would happen again.
With so many energy-efficient windows in the wild, melting cars is rare
So how random is melting a car from solar convergence? Pretty rare, but it does happen. Millions of energy-efficient windows are in the wild. Yet, fires and melting incidences are rare.
Then there is the polished stainless steel Disney Hall in downtown Los Angeles. The Frank Gehry building had a polished stainless steel surface when first completed in 2003. People driving by it were blinded at certain times of the day from the glare. And people that lived in the apartments across the street were getting fried from the reflections.
Finally, the entire outside siding was sanded down to a brushed finish. Problem solved.