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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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By Hoser McMoose on 6/15/2007 12:26:45 PM , Rating: 3
Sudbury has indeed improved considerably since the 'dead zone' days of the 70's. I lived there for a summer and some areas are actually quite beautiful.

That being said though, the Inco nickel and copper mine and smelting facility in Sudbury is the #2 source of air and water pollution in Canada (behind a zinc and copper facility in Thompson, Manitoba), as ranked by Environment Canada.

I'm not sure how important this is in the specific case of the Prius though. They don't use that much nickel and let's face it, the fabrication of ALL metals poses some similar issues. Case in point, US Steel is usually ranked as one of the top-5 polluters in the United States. The Prius weighs in at around 3000 pounds while the Hummer weighs in at 7500, and a significant portion of that weight comes from either steel or aluminium. Lets not forget that oil and gas industries cause lots of pollution too, beyond just what is coming out your exhaust pipe.

I don't think the Prius can truly be called "environmentally friendly", more just "less environmentally harmful". When you take the full end-to-end life cycle of the vehicle into account I would say that it's easily MUCH better than a Hummer.

If you were to compare the Prius to a Toyota Yaris though, that would be a different story.


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