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The Toyota Prius, which proved to car makers around the world that hybrids could actually sell, is just about ready for its latest update.
According to Autonews, the fourth generation Prius is set to include a new, more efficient engine, better batteries and a redesign.
The new engine will reportedly achieve thermal efficiency rates above 40%, a lot better than the 38.5% in the current Prius.
Most of the other details are however a little sketchy. Broadly speaking, we know that Toyota is looking to build a better across the board. “When we look at the next-generation Prius, we will have a new type of hybrid system. We will make it even smaller, lighter and less expensive. That will strengthen its commercial attractiveness,” Okudaira said at this month’s Automotive World, an annual technical conference.
Other elements though are even further from being ironed out. Take the batteries for instance: Toyota says that it’s aiming to use Lithium Ion batteries, but it could end up having to use nickel-metal hydride units in some cars.
The ever-increasing number of hybrids on offer around the world means that the new Prius is seriously important for Toyota. And increasingly large number of competitors means is starting to eat into Toyota’s dominance in the sector and it’ll have to work hard to differentiate itself from here on out.
One way it can do that is through improved fuel performance, but that won’t necessarily be easy. With previous Prius generations, it’s aimed for eight to 10% improvements in economy but as the market and technology behind hybrids improves, that’s getting increasingly difficult to achieve.
Generally speaking, hybrid powertrains are more mature than before. So, the general tendency is that when a technology matures, the improvement ratio is saturating, dropping,” Ogiso said. “We will do our best effort to keep that pace”.