What the next Toyota Prius will be like

Having pioneered hybrid technology and introduced the world’s first mass-produced hybrid vehicle in 1997, Toyota is now moving to the next level in hybrid technology as it prepares to launch the next generation of the Prius. To date, over 5 million Toyota and Lexus hybrid vehicles have been sold worldwide and the company estimates that there has been a reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by at least 34 million tons – which is the equivalent of taking 4.8 million vehicles off the road. Great for the environment.

The wide range of Toyota and Lexus hybrid models on sale today. In the centre is the Le Mans racing car which also uses a hybrid powertrain

Stressing Toyota’s further commitment to industry hybrid leadership, Toyota’s Managing Officer Satoshi Ogiso announced that ‘when the next generation Prius arrives, it will begin a new era for a broad range of Toyota and Lexus vehicles” and will be ‘the first to introduce a substantially improved family of hybrid powertrains’. Mr. Ogiso knows the technology very well, having been on the original ‘G21’ team that began the project in the early 1990s.

The first Prius was launched in 1997

Between now and the end of 2015, Toyota plans to introduce 15 new or redesigned hybrid vehicles globally. 

These new models will have new hybrid powertrains that will deliver significantly improved fuel economy in a more compact package that is lighter in weight and lower in cost.

“The performance of this new generation of powertrains will reflect significant advances in battery, electric motor and gas engine technologies that are part of Toyota’s larger strategy towards the electrification of the automobile through hybrid, battery electric and fuel cell technologies,” he said.

“The current Prius has held America’s fuel economy crown for many years,” said Mr. Ogiso. “In its three generations, Prius MPG (miles per gallon of fuel) has improved, on average, by about 10% with each generation.”

“The challenge to continue to improve at this rate – to beat your own record -becomes very difficult, but makes it all the more motivating. We are very motivated to beat our record!” he declared.

The next Prius will feature improved batteries with higher energy density – the relationship between the battery’s output and dimensions. Toyota, already a leader in advanced drive battery technology, has stepped up its research, development and production capacity of both nickel-metal hydride and lithium-ion and will use these technologies where appropriate in its expanding focus on electrification of the automobile.

The company has also ramped up development on new battery technologies like solid state and lithium air, as well as devoting resources focused on chemistries beyond lithium, such as magnesium and other low-valence materials. Its ability to take advantage of new and advanced technologies is partly because it owns Prime Earth EV Energy, the company developing and manufacturing hybrid batteries. [Click here to read more about the Prime Earth EV Energy Company]

Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive used in current models

The next Prius will also feature electric motors that will be smaller in size. Mr. Ogiso noted that the current Prius motors have 4 times the power density of the first model and that “the next will be even higher.” In addition, the thermal efficiency of the petrol engine in the current Prius is 38.5% but the next-generation will boost that level to more than 40% – a world best.

The next Prius will also utilize Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA), featuring a lower centre of gravity and increased structural rigidity, which will contribute to greatly improved driving dynamics. Improved aerodynamics will contribute to an all-new exterior design. Mr. Ogiso promises a roomier interior and significant refinements in design, layout and ease of operation.

Current Prius on sale is the third generation

There will also be a Prius Plug-in (PHV) variant which is being developed in parallel with the standard model. “We have been listening very carefully to current Prius PHV owners and are considering their requests for additional all-electric range. We have also heard from owners that they would like a more convenient charging operation,” Mr. Ogiso said. “In response, we are developing a new wireless/inductive charging system that produces resonance between an on-floor coil and an onboard coil to transmit power to the battery, providing charging without the fuss of a cable.” He said verification work on the system will be conducted in Japan, the U.S. and Europe in 2014.

To know more about the Prius and Prius c, visit www.toyota.com.my

[Chips Yap]