Hybrid Expansion: Toyota Prius Alpha Mini-Minivan Due in 2011?

Toyota’s long been eying an expansion of its Prius portfolio, but it seems the first spin-off product -- a people-mover dubbed Alpha -- could possibly launch as soon as 2011.

According to Motor Trend, the hybrid mini-minivan is reportedly in the final stages of development, and is scheduled for a public reveal in March of 2011 -- just in time, we note, for the 2011 Geneva Motor Show.

Two versions of the Alpha are reportedly being engineered, both based on the existing Prius hatchback. One model will be a five-seat MPV, and, according to an insider, will retain the nickel-metal-hydride batteries used in the current Prius. The other model will ride on a stretched Prius platform, seat seven, and utilize lithium-ion batteries.

If so, the seven-seat Alpha may be the first production Toyota hybrid to incorporate lithium-ion batteries. The automaker has shown similar battery packs on the plug-in Prius prototype, but since that vehicle won’t reach production until 2012, it’s likely the Alpha may beat the Prius to the punch.

Regardless of seating configuration or battery packs, both Alpha models will retain the 1.8-liter I-4 found in the Prius. The engine will generate 98 horsepower, and utilize the Atkinson combustion cycle to optimize efficiency. The electric motor is expected to put out 60 kW (81 horsepower), giving the vehicle a net output of approximately 135 horsepower. Because of the Alpha’s extra size and weight, expect its fuel economy to be slightly lower than the 50-mpg label worn by the Prius.

It is unclear whether Toyota’s Alpha will make it to North America, but the inside source says it will be priced in Japan below ¥2.5 million (around $27,700).

Source: Motor Trend

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