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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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RE: Batteries
By Hoser McMoose on 6/14/2007 12:20:21 PM , Rating: 5
The current-generation Prius, as well as this 'Hybrid X' concept pictured, were designed much more with aerodynamics in mind rather than looks. Aerodynamics can play a pretty important role in fuel economy, particularly at highway speeds.

This is made obvious by the fact that the coefficient of drag on the Prius is only 0.26. For comparison, the BMW 3-series has a coefficient of drag of 0.30. With a frontal cross-section of 2.544m^2 for the Prius and 2.582m^2 for the beamer (323i Sedan), that gives you a drag figure area figure of .6615 vs. 0.7746. So for any given speed the 3-series encounters 17% more drag force against it and would result in roughly 4 or 5% more fuel consumption at highway speeds (assuming everything else were exactly equal).

I couldn't find any numbers for the S2000, being a convertible it's almost certainly going to be worse, especially with the top down.

Now, that's not to say that you can't make a hybrid car with a higher level of drag. Certainly the Ford Escape Hybrid of the Toyota Highlander Hybrid will generate MUCH more drag than a BMW 325. Also there are some other cars that are more attractive than the Prius (in my mind at least) that have similar levels of drag, such as the Infiniti G35 or some Porsches.

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