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First look: Toyota hybridises Corolla, plugs in Prius

Electrifying: A hybrid Toyota Auris - the European version of the Corolla Seca hatch - will get the Prius running gear.

Toyota Auris Hybrid and plug-in Prius concepts previewed ahead of Frankfurt debut

Toyota logo2 Sep 2009

By MARTON PETTENDY

TOYOTA has revealed a concept version of the Auris Hybrid that is expected to morph into a petrol-electric Corolla for Australia within the next four years.

The hybrid version of the Auris, which is known here as the Corolla, will be the headline act of Toyota’s Frankfurt motor show exhibition from September 15, where the Japanese giant will also unveil a plug-in Prius concept and its redesigned Prado for the first time in Europe.

The all-new son-of-LandCruiser will make its world debut simultaneously the previous day (September 14) in both Tokyo and Sydney, before going on sale in Australia in November in both traditional five-door and new three-door body styles.

The premiere of the petrol-electric Corolla show car, dubbed the Auris HSD Full Hybrid Concept, follows confirmation from Toyota Motor Europe in July that its UK factory will produce a full parallel hybrid version of the Corolla within 12 months.

As we’ve reported previously, production of the Corolla Hybrid, which is expected to feature the same petrol-electric drivetrain employed by the closely-related new Prius, has not been confirmed for Japan, which produces Australia’s Corolla.

8 center imageFrom top: Prius Plug-in hybrid, iQ for Sports and iQ Collection.

However, the debut of the Auris Hybrid concept at Frankfurt and confirmation it will enter UK production all but guarantees the petrol-electric Corolla will be one of the eight new hybrid models Toyota has committed to releasing in Australia within the next four years.

Starting with the MkIII Prius in July, they include next February’s Australian-made Camry Hybrid, hybrid versions of the Corolla, Kluger and RAV4, eventual replacements for the Lexus GS450h and LS600hL, and a new entry-level Lexus hatchback based on the Prius, which will also be previewed at Frankfurt in the shape of the LF-Ch.

Asked at the Prius III launch if a hybrid Corolla would be Toyota’s next petrol-electric model after the Camry, Toyota spokesman Mike Breen said: “…the Prius platform is shared with Corolla and RAV4 so, while there’s no plan for a hybrid Corolla in Australia at this point, you should never say never”.

The Auris Hybrid, which will be made at Toyota Motor UK’s Burnaston plant in Derbyshire from mid-2010, was announced on July 16.

“With today’s announcement, Toyota has taken a significant step forward in ensuring that full hybrids become more accessible to a wider range of customers,” said TME president and CEO Tadashi Arashima at the time. “Such efforts are crucial if we are to see more low-carbon vehicles on European roads.

“Our decision to produce a full hybrid in the UK reflects both our confidence in the quality and commitment of the TMUK workforce and the strength of our long-standing partnership with the UK government. Today’s announcement is positive for Toyota, our UK suppliers and the local communities here,” said Mr Arashima.

Although it will be shown at Frankfurt as a concept, yesterday’s press release is clear about the vehicle’s production intent, saying: This represents a milestone in Toyota’s strategy: introducing Toyota’s full hybrid technology to a mainstream model, and the first step in the deployment of Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSD) across the company’s model range.” Also on display at Frankfurt will be a plug-in Prius concept, demonstrating Toyota’s intention to eventually equip its hybrid pin-up model with the ability to recharge it via mains power, as with a purely electric vehicle (EV) or ‘range-extending’ hybrid such as the GM/Holden Volt due on sale here in 2012.

Fitted with a lithium-ion battery pack instead of the nickel-metal hydride unit that’s found in both the production Prius and Camry Hybrid, which run almost exclusively on petrol power, the plug-in Prius will travel under all-electric power. Like the Volt, its internal combustion engine will serve only as a power generator to charge its battery.

“The Prius Plug-in Hybrid expands the capabilities of Toyota’s full hybrid technology (HSD), enabling pure electric operation for short-range day-to-day transportation,” says Toyota, which has committed to an extensive field trial in Europe in early 2010, when more than 150 examples will be leased to “selected fleet customers”.

Finally from Toyota at Frankfurt will be two customised concept versions of Japan and Europe’s iQ micro-cars, dubbed the ‘iQ for Sports’ and ‘iQ Collection’ and designed to “demonstrate the possibility for customers to personalise their cars”.

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