Next-Generation 2010 Toyota Prius Hybrid

By dancurranjr On August 27th, 2008

Spy photographers have caught the next-generation Toyota Prius hybrid car undergoing testing ahead of its official unveiling at next January’s Detroit Motor Show.Although the new car is heavily disguised, the photo shows that Toyota designers haven’t made major changes to the petrol-electric hybrid vehicle’s distinctive look.

The interior of the new Prius hybrid, however, has had a significant re-design, with the world’s most famous hybrid car adopting a far more modern look that shares styling cues with the Toyota Corolla.The gearshifter of the new Prius hybrid has been moved from the dash to the centre console and now resembles a conventional manual gearshift lever, although it is finished in a blue, carbonfibre-look in keeping with the space age theme.

Toyota designers have retained the large screen that displays diagrams of the car’s hybrid drive system and tells drivers when they are saving fuel and regenerating energy through the braking system.But while the old screen used to sit high on the dash, the new screen is integrated into the sloping centre console, creating a more wraparound cockpit feel for the driver.

Pundits are predicting the new Prius will be powered by a bigger, more powerful four-cylinder petrol engine – up from 1.5 to 1.8 litres – taken from the Corolla. The new engine, when combined with a new electric motor, is expected to put out an extra 30kW of power, bringing total output of the hybrid powertrain to roughly 120kW, the same as Toyota’s Camry medium sedan.

Despite the extra power, fuel consumption will be better than the current model. Some estimates say the new car will have a fuel label rating of just 2.9 litres per 100km, down from the current model’s 4.4L/100km. These seem optimistic, however, given the increase in engine capacity.

The fuel economy improvements will come from a more efficient nickel-metal-hydride battery and updates to Toyota’s hybrid drivetrain.

There is also talk of a solar panel on the roof to power the electronics and air-conditioning.Toyota plans to replace the nickel-metal-hydride batteries with lighter, more efficient lithium-ion batteries during the new car’s model cycle, but early models will persevere with the older technology.

Toyota plans to start producing lithium-ion batteries next year in a joint venture with Matsushita Electric Industrial, but they are not expected to enter vehicle production until at least 2010.

A plug-in hybrid version is also expected to be available early next decade. Although the body doesn’t look very different from the current model, it is rumoured to be 25mm wider and 30mm shorter than the current model.

The main visual difference is at the rear of the car. The hatchback’s glass area has been extended and a prominent rear spoiler splits the glass section, in a similar design to Mercedes’s C-Class Sports Coupe (since replaced by the new CLC).

The 2010 Prius will be built at Toyota’s new Mississippi plant in the United States as part of plan to reduce the car’s whole-of-life environmental footprint. Critics have suggested that the Prius hybrid’s fuel efficiency is cancelled out by the carbon emissions created during shipping from the Japan to the United States.

The new Prius is expected to go into production in Japan – and for the first time, the United States – early in 2009, with local versions tipped to arrive in the middle of 2009. As with the Corolla, the formal, upright centre console of the Prius has been replaced with a bridge-like design that flows from the dash to the car’s centre storage bin in between the two front seats.

Also similar is an open storage compartment underneath the floating centre console.

Toyota is working feverishly on a plug-in hybrid powertrain, although early versions of the next generation Prius are expected to continue with the regular hybrid engine, albeit with major updates and changes to improve its efficiency.


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