A sharp-eyed reader of Indian Autos Blog captured a 2016 Toyota Prius undergoing testing on the streets of Thailand recently. The new Prius has been delayed several times while designers tweaked its appearance to appeal to younger buyers. The average age of Prius owners has been rising lately, and it is thought that Toyota executives want the car to have bolder styling to attract younger buyers.
We do know the new model will be about 20% lighter than the outgoing version, and the internal combustion engine part of the hybrid drivetrain now has a thermal efficiency of 40% — the highest of any production engine. Less weight and greater efficiency should help it achieve the better fuel economy numbers Toyota wants. The new car will be rated at 55 mpg according to reports, but could be as high as 60 MPG.
It will also offer customers a choice between the conventional nickel hydride battery the Prius has always used, or a lithium ion battery. The optional battery will cost more but give the car greater electric-only range. The next generation Prius is scheduled to go on sale in the US later this year and will be built on the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) chassis, which will also be the basis of several other Toyota and Lexus models in coming years.
Oddly, production of the current Prius plug-in hybrid will end this month and its replacement will not arrive for at least a year. At a time when every other major manufacturer is rushing plug in hybrids to market, it is a mystery why Toyota would decide to remove its own plug-in from the market for a year.
Perhaps it is hoping that someone will build a lot of new charging stations in the meantime, the way Kansas City Power & Light is doing in that city. Or maybe the world will suddenly realize that hydrogen powered fuel cell cars are really superior to electric vehicles by then. In any event, by the time it comes back on the market, it will have plenty of competition.