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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: Plug in capability
By Spivonious on 6/14/2007 2:09:42 PM , Rating: 3
Yes, but you get 250 miles on a charge.

I drive to work and back twenty times a month. About 10 miles roundtrip, so 200 miles. Oh look, now I can go five weeks between fill-ups. That's $10.40 a month versus the $60-$70 a month I spend to fill up my car now. I'll take the cheaper option every time.

RE: Plug in capability
By Hoser McMoose on 6/14/2007 3:25:42 PM , Rating: 2
The Tesla roadster is basically an electric version of the Lotus Elise, which is rated for 23mpg (new EPA numbers). So 200 miles will use about 8.7 gallons of gasoline. At $2.50/gallon that's $21.75, at $3.50/gallon that's $30.45.

So, two points here. First, obviously the Tesla roadster is significantly cheaper even with electricity prices in Hawaii (which has expensive gas too). Second, if you're spending $60-$70 a month now you're either driving mroe than 200 miles or you have a VERY different vehicle (not just powertrain) than what Tesla is offering.

RE: Plug in capability
By Spivonious on 6/15/2007 3:40:27 PM , Rating: 2
Oh I definitely don't have a Lotus Elise, or a sports car for that matter. I have a car that gets me where I want to go and is fun to drive, a.k.a. a Focus ZX3. It gets about 35-37mpg going 60mph and about 32mpg going 70mph. It's about 26-30mpg in city driving (start and stop, speed between 30mph and 45mph).

*These are all measured by me over the past four years I've owned the car by taking the number of miles on the trip meter divided by the amount of gallons put in at a fill-up. The car is rated 26/34 IIRC.

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