For more than ten years the Toyota Prius has been the overwhelming champion of fuel-efficient cars, with no competitors coming even close to its 50 mpg combined mileage. But the competition among fuel-efficient cars has grown exponentially in the past few years, and in order to stay on top Toyota needs to deliver more efficiency for less money, with a goal of 55 mpg.
The new Toyota Prius has been hinted to arrive around 2015, and will be the first to roll on Toyota’s New Global Architecture platform that includes a lower center of gravity and better structural rigidity. To put it simply, this new platform is stronger, and less likely to roll over. The new architecture will also allow Toyota to lower the price of the Prius by spreading development costs over a wider range of models.
But who cares about safety when we can talk sexier advancements, like a smaller electric motor that makes more power, and a gasoline engine that could achieve 40% thermal efficiency. That would make it one of the most efficient engines in the world (many gas engines have around 28 to 30% thermal efficiency, losing a lot of energy via heat). Toyota is also said to be working on a new kind of electric motor that uses fewer rare earth elements, decreasing the automaker’s reliance on China.
All told, Toyota engineers think they can deliver a 10% improvement in combined gas mileage, from 50 to 55 mpg. That may not seem like a huge leap, but keep in mind that no other hybrid or diesel car has come even close to that kind of efficiency, at least in the North American market.
For now, that will probably be enough to keep the Prius on top, and Toyota actually has some other potentially-exciting applications of hybrid technology in the works, like the Yaris Hybrid-R. Perhaps a similar drivetrain will find its way into the Toyota Prius C? And of course I expect improvements to the Prius V and Prius Plug-In as well, the latter perhaps becoming available with wireless charging in the near future.
The Japanese giant is looking mighty vulnerable these days, but the Prius will probably remain the unshakable champion of fuel economy for at least a few more years.
Source: The Truth About Cars