OK, we've heard the disparagement of the Prius. It's too small, too slow, and too prissy. Auto-enthusiasts are...well...unenthusiastic with the car. But, correct me if I'm wrong, isn't that the point?
One of the really fantastic things about the Prius is that it doesn't give you 150% of what you need. You can't fit five bodies in the trunk and you won't win any drag races, but you will have a nice functional car that uses a heck-of-a-lot less gas.
But after nearly ten years of success with the car, Toyota wants to bring something new to the table. The new model Prius (2009 or 2010, we're not sure) will be bigger, longer, more powerful, and faster. All of this will come along with an increase in fuel economy as well. But a bigger engine and body mean that the heavier car will be losing total efficiency, even if a slightly-improved hybrid system bumps the mileage up a few miles per gallon.
With a larger hybrid system, and a smaller engine, we would see much larger gains. And with a plug-in system, like the one you can now buy from hymotion, the Prius could get an effective fuel-economy upwards of 100 mpg.
The good news is that Toyota seems to be looking at broadening the range of the Prius, making it into a kind of sub-brand. There might be a sub-compact version of the car, which could see very exciting mileage numbers. And they're also looking at creating a version for their Lexus brand that would be faster, larger, and less efficient.
I'm also a little disappointed in the lack of a plug-in option for this next-gen Prius, and Toyota's continuing reliance on nickel batteries. While lithium-ion remain in their sights, Toyota seems too fat and happy with their current dominance in hybrid technology to really be going after this new technology.
Don't get me wrong, I love the Prius, and I'm looking forward to driving the new and improved version one of these days. But Toyota needs to re-affirm its focus on efficiency with something spectacular before I'll buy into this Prius beef-up.
written by MattKelly, April 29, 2008
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