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Prius MPV teaser  (Source: Toyota)

Prius MPV under heavy camouflage  (Source: Auto Spies)
Toyota is looking to expand its Prius lineup

Rumors of an MPV or minivan based on Toyota's popular Prius have been swirling around for quite some time. Given that current 5-seat Prius is capable of 50 mpg, it's seems reasonable to think that a slightly larger vehicle with additional seating/cargo capacity would be welcome in the marketplace (with a slight hit to overall fuel economy).

Today, Edmunds Inside Line has some of the first spy photos of the MPV counterpart to the Prius hatchback. According to the publication, the vehicle will seat seven passengers and will be similar in size to such vehicles as the Mazda 5 and the Kia Rondo. The Mazda 5 in particular is quite popular with small families as it is closer in size to the original Chrysler minivans that debuted in the mid-80s instead of the gargantuan Siennas, Odysseys, and Caravans prowling the streets today.

Given that the MPV will share much in common with the standard Prius, we expect to see the same 1.8-liter gasoline engine used and a new lithium-ion battery pack for added power and range (while at the same time saving weight). It shouldn't be too difficult for the MPV to achieve greater than 40 mpg combined (city/highway), but we'll just have to wait for the final EPA numbers to come in when the vehicle is released next year.

When the Prius MPV does hit U.S. streets, it will likely be joined by a similar offering from General Motors: the Chevrolet Volt MPV5. The "crossover" variant of the standard Volt sedan seats five people and can travel up to 35 miles on battery power alone.

Updated 10/11/2010

Toyota has just posted a teaser shot of it upcoming Prius MPV on its Facebook page.


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RE: one thing...
By Solandri on 10/4/2010 8:09:25 PM , Rating: 2
China is the source of most of the metals used in newer batteries because they're willing to rape their environment and pay their workers slave wages just to sell the stuff for cheaper than anyone else on the international market. It's not like oil where the bulk of the world's known deposits are only in certain locales. If China tried to raise the price of the metals, other deposits all around the world would suddenly become economically feasible to mine.

Hydrogen as an energy storage medium suffers from worse cycle efficiency than batteries. For batteries you're looking at maybe 3%-5% transmission losses from the power plant, ~70% charging efficiency, ~90% discharge effiiciency, and ~90% electric motor efficiency. Total is a bit over 50% of the power from the plant makes it to the wheels of your car.

Hydrogen production via electrolysis is currently about 50%-70% efficient (theoretical max is about 80%-94%). Combine that with 50%-70% efficiency of fuel cells (theoretical max is 83%) and ~90% electric motor efficiency, and only about 22%-44% of the energy from the power plant makes it to your wheels. And that's not even considering the difficulties or costs of transporting hydrogen as a fuel.

There's some work being done on cracking water into hydrogen via sunlight using catalysts, which if it pans out could make the generation of cracking stage effectively close to 100% efficient. And you can probably do something with the oxygen to make back some of your energy losses. But that's all highly theoretical right now. In practice, aside from geopolitical and environmental considerations, gasoline is a better fuel than hydrogen at the moment.

Hydrogen is used in space applications because it costs on the order of $200-$1000 to get one pound of material into low earth orbit. Hydrogen and oxygen are about the lightest fuels available, so it makes them obvious candidates for stuff you're putting into orbit. That's it. Remove the weight requirement and it's a pretty poor fuel. Even with the weight requirement, spacecraft frequently use hydrazine or aluminum+aluminum perchlorate (solid rocket fuel). Those are pretty nasty to work with and have nowhere near as much energy per unit weight as hydrogen. But they're much easier to store and handle than hydrogen + oxygen that they can be more cost-effective.

RE: one thing...
By mcnabney on 10/5/2010 9:28:35 AM , Rating: 2
Fuel cells have two additional benefits when used in space. Their waste product can be consumed by the astronauts. And there are no moving parts in the reaction itself. Now if you were paying attention to Apollo 11 you would remember that the fuel stirring device caused the failure. So there are still some risks to keeping fuels in space.

"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher

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