The 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