The Toyota Prius has remained at the front of the MPG pack for more than a decade now, and in that time it has garnered a reputation as a reliable, cost-effective solution to high gas prices. Toyota has expanded the Prius lineup to include a compact and a larger minivan, but rivals are closing the mineshaft, errr, MPG gap. So how does Toyota intend to keep the Prius on top?
Edmunds Inside Line reports that Toyota will be focusing its efforts on making the 4th-generation Prius lighter and more aerodynamic. Due out in 2015, Toyota is also reportedly working with tire makers on achieving new gains in the area of low-rolling resistance tires. But it Toyota’s efforts in making the next Prius even lighter that will likely bring the biggest MPG gains.
Ideas like an all-aluminum body have been tried and abandoned before, though the Prius V does weigh an aluminum hood to shave off a few pounds. The weight of the Prius has steadily gone up over the years, now sitting around 3,000 pounds, up from around 2,700 when it debuted. The compact Prius C tips the scales at just 2,500 pounds however, and every pound of weight Toyota can save makes it easier to attain those uber-high MPG numbers.
However, Toyota needs to keep the Prius affordable. It is a delicate balancing act, as materials like aluminum and carbon fiber are a lot more expensive than heavier recycled steel. It’s interested that the Edmunds article doesn’t mention anything about the battery pack or engine either. Toyota has, for some reason, stuck with heavier nickel-hydride batteries in the Prius rather than making the jump to lithium-ion cells. The reasoning could go back to affordability, but the weight savings could help push the Prius over the 60 mpg mark.
With an expanding lineup and absolute domination of the market, the Prius remains top dog…for now. But the rate at which other automakers have caught up is astounding, and Toyota had better pull out all the stops for the next Prius if they want to stay on top. Do you have a wishlist of parts you hope to see in the next Prius?
Source: Edmunds Inside Line