Toyota Prius

A new hybrid system and platform enable the vehicle to compete with its combustion engine rivals

Toyota was one of the first OEMs to introduce a hybrid vehicle to its line-up and its Prius model remains by far the most successful of the cars that combine an internal combustion engine and electric motor in the same powertrain. 

Since the launch of the first generation of the vehicle in 1997,  Toyota has gone on to develop hybrid versions of its Auris and Yaris models as well but the Prius remains an important member of the family.

Hybrids are naturally very competent on the fuel efficiency front. But for the new Prius the intention was to do more, says Kouji Toyoshima, Toyota’s chief engineer on the vehicle’s development project.

“Prius has always been the front runner of the hybrid vehicles from the first generation in many different aspects,” says Toyoshima.

“The environmental performance is very important and so in this field of competition we have to always be the front runner. Usain Bolt is the champion of the sprint but of course he has to work a lot to stay in the front.

“With this new Prius we wanted to switch from having an excellent eco car to offering just an excellent car.” 

To develop an excellent vehicle, though, you have to know what it is that contributes to having such a label, and so Toyoshima made a point of testing the C-segment competitors – rather than simply other hybrid rivals. This fourth-generation Prius was consequently benchmarked against the likes of the VW Golf and Ford Focus.

“I tried a lot of different vehicle models of European competitors, and I tried to think about which direction we should now aim,” says Toyoshima.

As a result, the vehicle’s hybrid powertrain has been overhauled and redeveloped.

The new nickel-metal-hydride hybrid battery retains the same chemistry make-up as in the outgoing model but is now more compact.

Being 10% smaller, it has been repositioned away from the boot space to under the rear seats. Despite its reduced dimensions and lighter weight, the hybrid battery’s total power has been maintained and it can be charged more quickly than previously because the operating software has been changed.

tags: June 2016 Toyota Hybrids & EVs