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Toyota paints its future Prius even greener

Early look: The hydrogen fuel-cell concept Toyota will reveal at this year’s Tokyo show is unlikely to carry the same design as the FCV- R concept from the 2011 show.

Hydrogen fuel cell concept points to leaner, greener Toyota Prius

Toyota logo29 Aug 2013

TOYOTA’S next-generation Prius will be leaner, greener, and – more importantly – cost less, the Japanese car-maker says.

At a company event in Michigan this week, Toyota Motor Corporation managing officer Satoshi Ogiso said the next generation of hybrid powertrains would be “significantly” more fuel-efficient, lighter, more compact and cheaper to buy than the current line-up.

Mr Ogiso said the next-generation Prius, rumoured to make its debut in the second quarter of 2015, will start “a new era for a broad range of Toyota and Lexus vehicles” and will be “the first to introduce a substantially improved family of hybrid powertrains”.

He said the performance of the next-gen powertrains would “reflect significant advances in battery, electric motor and gas engine technologies that are part of Toyota’s larger strategy towards the electrification of the automobile through hybrid, battery electric and fuel cell technologies”.

While the fuel economy for each generation of Prius has improved on the last, Mr Ogiso said Toyota was working hard to ensure the trend continued with future hybrid models.

“The challenge to continue to improve at this rate - to beat your own record - becomes very difficult, but makes it all the more motivating. We are very motivated to beat our record,” he said.

The fourth-generation Prius will be built on the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) and will feature a boost in structural rigidity and a lower centre of gravity that Toyota says will improve the driving dynamics of the car.

Mr Ogiso said the electric motors in the next Prius were expected to shrink in size, but produce higher power density, while the thermal efficiency of the combustion engines would reportedly rise from 38.5 per cent to a “world best” 40 per cent.

The 2015 Prius will feature a completely redesigned exterior and Mr Ogiso confirmed it would feature a more spacious interior, with significant improvements in the layout, design and ease of operation.

Toyota has started development work on the plug-in hybrid version of the next Prius, and Mr Ogiso said Toyota had received feedback from US owners asking for an increase of the electric-only driving range, and more convenient charging options.

“In response, we are developing a new wireless/inductive charging system that produces resonance between an on-floor coil and an onboard coil to transmit power to the battery, providing charging without the fuss of a cable,” he said.

The plug-in Prius is not sold in Australia, but the US-spec version has an electric-only range of 16 to 24 kilometres.

Toyota also confirmed it would unveil a concept version of its first commercially available hydrogen fuel cell vehicle at the Tokyo motor show in November this year.

The Japanese car-maker revealed its FCV-R fuel cell concept at the Tokyo show in 2011, but the vehicle set to be unveiled this year is expected to be completely new and will take the shape of a mid-size four-door sedan.

Toyota senior vice-president of sales, Bob Carter, said the hydrogen fuel cell wold use “core hybrid technology and will be a primary element of Toyota’s future mobility strategy”.

Meanwhile, a statement from Toyota confirmed the company had adjusted its projected targets for a rollout of new or updated hybrid vehicles.

Earlier this year, the Japanese car-making giant confirmed plans to launch 18 completely new or updated hybrid models by the end of 2015, but it is now saying it will introduce 15 models in the same timeframe.

The statement did not outline details of hybrid models that may have been dropped from its future model rollout.

More than five million Toyota and Lexus hybrid models have sold globally since the launch of the first-generation Prius in Japan in 1997, and the company currently has 19 hybrid or plug-in hybrid vehicles in its line-up.

In July this year, Ford confirmed it had ended its agreement with Toyota to develop hybrid technology, instead deciding to go it alone to produce a rear-drive hybrid drivetrain.

German luxury car-maker BMW has maintained its relationship with Toyota to share diesel and hybrid technology.

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