Next Toyota Prius To Get New Battery And Engine Tech


2015-toyota-priusThe Toyota Prius is the car most people associate with the word “hybrid”, and the next generation of the best-selling, most fuel-efficient car in America has some big Birkenstocks to fill. The new Toyota Prius will be getting a new battery pack and a more efficient gasoline engine, but it doesn’t look like production will be coming to America anytime soon.

In an in-depth interview with Automotive News, details regarding the next-gen Prius start to take shape. The new Prius will ride on the Toyota New Global Architecture, or TNGA, which uses new design and manufacturing techniques to build lower-cost, lower-slung cars that improve both fuel economy and handling. Even more importantly though, the TNGA platform could allow designers to shed up to 20% off the weight of new Toyota vehicles, including the Prius and its variants, the Prius C, Prius V, and Prius Plug-in. That will go a long way towards improving fuel economy.

That said, engineers are starting to hit a wall in terms of fuel economy improvement. While previous generations had seen MPG improvements of 10% or more, the next Prius will probably only improve by about 8%, bringing the combined fuel economy to around 54 or 55 MPG. Toyota is considering a lithium-ion battery pack for the new Prius as well, though there is talk of either keeping the nickel-hydride packs, or offering it as a lower-cost alternative. Options are good, especially with something as easily interchangeable as a battery pack.

With the new battery pack comes a new gasoline engine with a thermal efficiency of 40%, a 1.5% improvement over Toyota’s best earlier efforts. Thermal efficiency measures how much energy is wasted as heat in the engine, and obviously more efficient engines can go farther on a gallon of gasoline. Notably, the electric motor isn’t mentioned much, though Toyota is among the automakers looking to reduce reliance on motors that use rare earth elements, much of which is controlled by China.

All of these mechanical improvements will couple with new looks inside and out, designed to give a more passionate and less utilitarian feel to the hybrid hatchback. You can bet Toyota is going to try to regain the vaunted 5-star safety rating for the new Prius, and wireless charging technology could be on tap as well. This all sounds dandy, and is likely to keep the Prius as the world’s best-selling hybrid, but one commitment Toyota seems to be reneging on is the promise to build the Prius in North America. This promise dates back several years now, though Toyota shows no indication of changing its manufacturing strategy.

While the next Prius isn’t likely to shake up the green car world, it sounds good enough to stay on top for the foreseeable future. Toyota isn’t going to let its class-leading car just go quietly into the night.

Source: Automotive News

About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he’s running, because he’s one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.

  • danwat1234

    Thermal efficiency of 40%? Looks like it will just use the ‘prototype’ 1 engine rather than ‘prototype’ 2, which is supposed to be around 45% thermal efficiency. In other words direct injection with a longer stroke instead of a turbocharged lean burn engine. Maybe the 5th gen will have lean burn hmm.

    Google “Toyota targeting thermal efficiency of more than 45% for next-generation gasoline engines for hybrids” for the article.

    20% reduction in weight? That brings it down from ~3,000 pounds of the current Prius to only 2400 pounds (3000*0.8)! It must have a lot of aluminum in that body then. That would be great. More acceleration without needing more HP, etc.

    • DRJJ

      And $5-10,000 more for the car, probably less safe and more expensive insurance-no thanks. Don’t change just to say you changed.

      • Elbio

        I’ll call you a whambulance

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  • DRJJ

    If the nickel batteries last 250k mi if driven regularly, are cheap and light-why change? I’ve read some of the Lithium batteries cost half as much as the car-not for me, ever.

    • lasvegascolonel

      The U.S. will likely be the last market to have to use the old nickel-metal hydride system from the last century. Costs are coming down. Lithiums allow more room, quick charging, and lighter weight. Given the choice of both, consumers in Europe and Japan chose lithium for the Prius V. U.S. consumers were only allowed the old-tech nickel-metal system.

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  • lasvegascolonel

    The lithiums will bring U.S. consumers on the same level as other nations who get Toyota’s higher technology first. Many people prefer Japanese craftsmanship, and pay extra for it in higher line cars, so that would be a good thing for future Prius buyers.

    • DRJJ

      Big mistake-cost, longevity, availability, weight, fire hazard.

      • lasvegascolonel

        Maybe, but Toyota doesn’t think so, as they’ve put their most advanced systems in Europe and Japan. But it is true, Europeans, especially Germans, are more demanding than most of us are…look at their roads, safety inspections etc. I found driving there much safer than here. Thanks.

  • RearView

    After owning a 2011 Prius Two for two years, I really like getting 530 miles on ten gallons of gasoline. Of course one must slow down to achieve maximum fuel efficiency. My only true complaint is that the Prius is not sound proof. Sitting next to a cement truck at the red light in NOT enjoyable. Road and wind noise is also not acceptable for a $30,000 automobile! Other than these few gripes I like the fact of just cruising past the gas stations without having to stop in.
    Until Toyota can increase efficiency up to 75 MPG or more I am not sure I would buy another Prius. Although you use much less fossil fuel, other rare earth elements are used. So which is better to save, gas or rare earth elements?