We still have over a year until the next generation of Toyota Prius makes its official debut. It was originally set to premiere early in 2015, but Toyota moved that date back to allow plenty of time for an out-of-the-park launch. However, even though we still have a while to wait, Toyota is already starting to drop some serious hints about what we can expect in the next-gen hybrid.
High-Density Lithium Ion Battery
The first major addition to the 2016 Toyota Prius will be a second battery option. Toyota will still offer the affordable nickel-metal hydride battery that’s in their current model, but they’ll also offer an upgraded lithium ion battery pack.
This rumor was confirmed by Toyota’s chief managing officer of powertrain development, Koei Saga, in an interview with Automotive News. While he didn’t give us any specifics, we can assume that the high-tech lithium ion battery’s higher density will allow the Prius to more efficiently store and use energy, allowing for improved fuel economy and longer electric-only range. The downside is a higher manufacturing price, which in turn necessitates a higher MSRP for any Prius with that technology.
Toyota New Global Architecture w/ AWD
To help Toyota achieve their stated goal of an 8% improvement in fuel economy and 40% thermal efficiency, the next-gen Prius will ride on Toyota’s New Global Architecture. This new modular chassis will offer up to 20% weight reduction over their current underpinnings, which in and of itself makes for significant efficiency improvements. And, while it’s not written in stone, it may even feature an all-wheel drive layout in addition to the front-wheel drive available in today’s model.
This actually makes a lot of sense for Toyota. The whole point of their New Global Architecture is to increase sharing of parts and technologies between different vehicles in order to save on manufacturing and development costs. If they can build an AWD hybrid drivetrain for the Prius, then it’ll be easy to port that same setup over to any of their other vehicles that eventually use the new platform. In fact, Saga even hinted at the possibility of new “unprecedented” concepts for large hybrid vehicles built on their NGA.
All in all, it’s already clear that the next-gen Toyota Prius will be just as groundbreaking as the original model all the way back in 1997. Saga agreed, finishing his interview with Automotive News by saying, “The batteries will be renewed. Everything will be revised. And I think we will come up with a fuel economy that will surprise everyone.”
And that will be surprising, after all the current Prius has just lapped the Nurburgring at 698 MPG. (That’s MPG, not MPH!). Of course, that’s a bit of a cheat, given that for most of the course it was using electrical power, and that power had to come from somewhere. After all, you could put an all-electric Tesla Model S on the same track and claim that it’s MPG for the circuit was infinte because it did not use any gas at all.
In any case, it’s an impressive feat, which shows what hybrid tech + renewable electricity generation can do in partnership. And it whet’s our appetite for the next Prius.
See the current one lap the Nurburgring slightly slower than fellow hybrid, the Porsche 918, in the video below: