Toyota tells us it will spearhead a new era in hybrid technology with its next generation Prius, promising further gains in fuel economy and reduced emissions. As part of its focus on its hybrid leadership and achievements at the Frankfurt Motor Show, Toyota has provided a sneak preview of the technical advances that will underpin future Toyota and Lexus hybrid models.
Emphasising Toyota’s continued commitment to auto industry leadership in hybrid, the next generation Prius will be the first in a broad range of Toyota and Lexus vehicles that will make use of a substantially improved family of hybrid powertrains.
These new powertrains will deliver significant improvements in fuel economy from a more compact package that is lighter in weight and lower in cost.
Their performance will reflect the significant advances Toyota is making in battery, electric motor, and petrol engine development in its wider strategy to deliver electric vehicle power through hybrid, battery electric, and fuel cell technologies.
In each of its three generations, Prius has delivered an average reduction of 10 per cent in its CO2 emissions. Toyota’s challenge is to continue to improve at this rate.
The next Prius will feature improved batteries with higher energy density, which means greater energy storage capacity within a smaller unit. Toyota, already a leader in advanced battery technology, has stepped up its research, development, and production capacity for both nickel metal-hydride and lithium-ion, and will use each technology where appropriate in it expanding focus on vehicle electrification. It has also ramped up development of new battery technologies such as solid state and lithium-air, and devoted resources to chemistries beyond lithium, such as magnesium and other low-valence materials.
Toyota also say that the next Prius will use smaller electric motors, but with a higher power density. The motors in the current model have four times the power density of those used by the original Prius back in 1999, and the improvement will be higher still in the next generation car.
The thermal efficiency of the petrol engine will improve, too, from 38.5 per cent currently to a world-best of more than 40 per cent.
And the next Prius will be constructed according to the Toyota New Global Architecture, bringing a lower centre of gravity and greater structural rigidity, contributing to greatly improved driving dynamics.
A focus on raising aerodynamic performance will deliver an all-new exterior styling, with a larger interior and refinements in design, layout, and ease of use.
The next generation Prius Plug-in is being developed in parallel with the standard Prius model. Toyota has learned from current Prius Plug-in customers that they would like a greater all-electric driving range and a more convenient charging solution. In response, Toyota is working on a new wireless/inductive charging system that produces resonance between an on-floor coil and an on-board coil to transmit power to the battery - simply put, this provides charging without the fuss of connecting a cable.
Toyota says that verification work on this system will be carried out in Japan, the USA, and Europe during 2014.