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Toyota Hybrid X Concept
Don't expect any impressive MPG gains in the next generation Toyota Prius

Toyota's next generation Prius likely won't have the spectacular boost in fuel economy that was once expected. In late May, the Japanese newspaper Nikkan Koyogo reported that Toyota was considering nixing the idea of putting lithium-ion batteries in the next generation Prius. The newspaper stated that there were concerns within the company about the safety of lithium-ion batteries -- something that Sony is already well aware of.

The Wall Street Journal confirmed today that the next-generation Prius will not use lithium-ion battery technology -- at least for the first few years. The lithium-ion batteries that were to be used in the Prius would have been provided by Panasonic EV Energy Company.

The Prius will instead continue to use nickel-metal hydride batteries -- albeit in a higher capacity form to boost mileage over the current generation vehicle.

Toyota's decision to not use lithium-ion battery technology could be a big break for General Motors. GM has long been in Toyota's shadow when it comes to hybrid technology, but the company is looking to reverse its fortunes in the coming years.

The company has launched its new "mild hybrid" Saturn Aura Green Line sedan and is nearing the release of dual-mode hybrid Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon full-size SUVs. GM's coup de grâce, however, could be the upcoming Saturn Vue Green Line mid-sized crossover.

In 2009, the Saturn Vue Green Line will be equipped with a 2-mode hybrid powertrain and plug-in capabilities. Owners will be able to charge their vehicle overnight via a standard 110-volt outlet and drive 10 miles on fully charged lithium-ion batteries before the internal combustion engine takes over. In addition, GM says that its plug-in hybrid Vue Green Line is good for 70MPG.

All hope is not lost for the Prius in the quest for increased fuel economy. Current and future Prius owners can always look to third-parties to retrofit their vehicles with lithium-ion batteries. Lithium Technology Corporation has produced a lithium-ion battery pack (comprised of 63 LTC LiFePO4 cells) for the current Prius. When coupled with a plug-in system, fuel economy jumps from 46MPG combined to 125MPG.



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Bummer
By jak3676 on 6/14/2007 11:13:57 AM , Rating: 2
Seems really odd that Toyota wouldn't have been pushing for lithium ion for a while now. When you look at what some the 3rd party companies are able to do for the prius, I thought it would be a sure thing. I know there are environmental and safety issues with both Ni-Cad and Li-ion, but I thought Li-ion was generally safer and more recycleable/environmentally friendly. Makes me wonder if it was just a problem with their particular supplier and thus something that may be changed fairly easily in the future.




RE: Bummer
By jak3676 on 6/14/2007 11:21:14 AM , Rating: 2
I mistyped Ni-Cd instead of Ni-MH. I know the Prius uses a Nickel metal hydride battery not the older Nickel-cadmium, but my point is still the same. What's the problem with Li-ion? Tesla, Reva and Kewet are all releasing new lithium ion battery electric car models in 2007.


RE: Bummer
By MetaDFF on 6/14/2007 11:22:29 AM , Rating: 2
If there are truly safety concerns with the Li-ion batteries, I think Toyota is being smart by playing it safe. It's better to wait a little bit for all the safety concerns to be resolved instead of risking their reputation and being forced to recall all their Priuses because the batteries might catch on fire (or something like that). A recall might hurt them more than being a bit late to the market.


RE: Bummer
By Oregonian2 on 6/14/2007 5:11:05 PM , Rating: 2
Not only does there need NOT to be a problem with them, there needs to be a perception of there not being a problem. Else people don't buy, and those that do will class action sue (well, lawyers who make all the money will help this along...) -- all based on perception.


RE: Bummer
By dagamer34 on 6/14/2007 11:22:35 AM , Rating: 2
Safety of a few batteries is different from safety on a massive scale. With the recent battery scare last year, I think Toyota is taking it safe because unlike when a laptop sets on fire and you can take it out, a fire in a hybrid care is nothing easy for us mere mortals to walk away from.


RE: Bummer
By FITCamaro on 6/14/2007 2:01:53 PM , Rating: 2
Yes but its not like GM is just going to release lithium ion battery packs in cars without fully testing them to all extremes. GM can't afford a massive recall any more than Toyota can. They will subject test vehicles to all types of weather, driving conditions, etc.


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