Toyota pulled back the covers today at its Hybrid World Tour event in Michigan, giving a small glimpse of advanced fuel-saving technologies currently in development.
Not surprisingly, the Prius was the center of attention. Unbelievably the next-generation will actually be better than today’s model! Can you believe it? In all seriousness though the car is expected to feature a wide-ranging lineup of improvements.
The internal-combustion gasoline engine in today’s Prius runs at thermal-efficiency rate of about 38.5 percent. The next-generation’s ICE will reach 40 percent. That may not sound like much, but every point is the result of hard-fought engineering battles.
Of course a gasoline engine isn’t the only part of a hybrid drivetrain.
“[The] next-generation Prius, specifically, will combine our advanced battery technologies with new electric motors that are smaller in size and feature improved power density,” Satoshi Ogiso, Toyota Motor Corporation’s managing officer, said.
Not giving anything away, he also mentioned that the company is stepping up its research, development and production capacity of both nickel-metal hydride and lithium-ion batteries. Toyota is also looking at future technologies like lithium air and even magnesium-based chemistries.
Drivers of the next-generation Prius Plug-In will also benefit from wireless charging. Toyota is developing this right now and plans to test it in the U.S., Japan and Europe starting next year.
The next-generation Prius will also ride atop a greatly improved plaform. This global architecture will feature a lower center of gravity and increased structural rigidity; attributes that result in better ride and handling characteristics as well as improved aerodynamics.
The challenge Toyota faces with the Prius is how to beat its own game. Every generation of the car gets about 10 percent more efficient. That’s getting more and more difficult to do going forward. Could the new model hit 55 miles per gallon? What about 60?
When is the next Toyota Prius expected to launch? Well, nothing is concrete at this point but Ogiso hinted that every version of the Prius comes out on a six-year schedule, which means the new model could be expected to arrive around 2015.
Beyond its established hybrid technology the company is also working to develop hydrogen fuel-cells. It will unveil a four-door concept at the Tokyo Motor Show next year that indicates what the future holds. The car will debut in North America at the Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas.
Ogiso predicted that in 15 years “Hydrogen fuel cells could be as common as hybrids are today,” which would be a major achievement given how expensive the technology is today.
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