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2010 Toyota Prius  (Source: Prius Chat)

2010 Honda Insight  (Source: Auto North)
Japanese buyers continue to embrace hybrids

In May of last year, the 2010 Honda Insight hybrid vehicle became the first hybrid in Japanese history to top the nation's monthly sales charts.  The achievement was quickly overshadowed, though, by the very strong launch of the third generation 2010 Toyota Prius, which was fast at overtaking Honda's entry in sales.

Now, according to a report first aired in the Japanese newspaper Nikkei, the 2010 Toyota Prius was the top vehicle in total sales for the year of 2009 in Japan.  In 2009, Japanese Prius sales reportedly grew 300 percent, reaching a national total of 208,876 units for the year.

The third-generation Prius packs a higher horsepower electric motor and gas engine, adding 24 hp to the Prius's combined horsepower.  The drag coefficient is reduced, the vehicle component weight is reduced, and the new battery pack is smaller and more efficient.

Despite the car's success, there are some troublesome signs, though.  According to Koji Endo, managing director of advanced Research Japan in Tokyo the Prius only makes $2,100 USD profit per unit sold.  Earlier in the year, estimates of the profit margin stood at about $3,100 USD.  Dropping profit margins came largely from cost cutting to keep up with the 2010 Honda Insight, which moved 93,283 units and was fifth place in total yearly sales. 

To date, an estimated 1.25 million Prius vehicles have been sold worldwide.  Toyota believes that the Prius will become its bestselling model before long.  However, it still has a long way to go to achieve that goal.  In the U.S., its sales were relatively strong, but reportedly only landed it in 16th place.

The Japanese market is arguably very different from the American market – Japan's congested streets, high population density, and high population concentration in urban centers make hybrids an easier pitch.  American buyers, many of which don't live in the city, are still trying to weigh the benefits of hybrid vehicles.

Last year we test drove the 2010 Toyota Prius extensively, both in rural and urban settings, and our impressions can be found here.

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By quiksilvr on 1/11/2010 12:12:07 PM , Rating: 4
Now can we put Lithium Ion batteries in this thing and up the efficiency even more?

RE: Good.
By afkrotch on 1/11/2010 8:16:15 PM , Rating: 2
Yep and looking at how well we've been doing with lithium ion batteries recently, you're Prius will explode too.

RE: Good.
By afkrotch on 1/11/2010 8:19:14 PM , Rating: 2
Oh yah. Forgot to mention. Poor life cycle with lithium ion. Probably be blowing $3000 every 3-4 years replacing them. No Prius has required a battery replacement yet (cept for accidents and such).

RE: Good.
By Samus on 1/11/2010 10:44:13 PM , Rating: 2
$3000? Pfft. The Chevy Volt's battery pack is estimated to cost $15,000 dollars and its only good for 40-50 miles.

Honestly, you guys need to understand the chemestry of Lithium batteries. They're terrible in cold and hot weather, have short lifecycles (compared to lead acid) and cost a fortune.

Lithium-Poly has promise, but isn't any cheaper, just lighter weight.

We need NEW battery technology before EV's are realistic. And using lead-acid batteries in Hybrid technology makes economic sense, but isn't environmently sustainable. The battery has long been considered the most 'dirty' production part of a vehicle, and the prius multiplied that by two dozen.

RE: Good.
By quiksilvr on 1/12/2010 12:27:46 PM , Rating: 4
As an aerospace engineer, I respectfully have to say that you have no idea what the hell you are talking about.

The Prius current uses Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) not only has far less energy per kilogram and less charge and discharge efficiency than Lithium Ion, it also lasts for far fewer cycles than Lithium Ion.

Lithium Ion batteries also has a higher voltage so it packs a better punch. And to boost space efficiency in the Prius even more, they can use Lithium Ion Polymer batteries (which is also more durable).

Supposed to be a surprise?
By Noya on 1/11/2010 11:21:53 AM , Rating: 2
Japan has higher taxes on fuel, heavily congested urban areas and a fiercely loyal buying public.

RE: Supposed to be a surprise?
By mdogs444 on 1/11/2010 12:45:25 PM , Rating: 1
Sounds like the current administrations recipe for America.

Increase the cost of gasoline and all forms of energy.
Get people to move from the suburbs to the city for public transportation and lower energy usage.
Get the American people to buy GM & Chrysler.

"My sex life is pretty good" -- Steve Jobs' random musings during the 2010 D8 conference

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