Toyota's Hybrid Plans: Expand and Keep Prius Nameplate as Early Adopter Model

Toyota has some truly ambitious hybrid plans, and aims to eventually offer a hybrid model of each of its vehicles. We've recently learned of plans to expand the Prius nameplate into a sub-brand, as well as showcase Toyota's latest environmentally friendly technology.

Although Toyota is planning on developing new technology for its Prius name, it's unclear exactly when the new technology will debut. Toyota's upcoming plug-in hybrid Prius will use lithium-ion battery technology but still feature a parallel hybrid powertrain. Although the plug-in Prius will be able to travel 12 miles on electricity alone, the gasoline engine kicks in to charge the battery and drive the front wheels when the battery is drained. Some newer hybrid systems, such as the one fitted to the Chevrolet Volt, feature a series hybrid drivetrain in which the gasoline engine works as an electric generator but never drives the front wheels.

Toyota has invested several hundred million dollars in its hybrid technology, already over a decade old. The hybrid system in the current Prius uses an Atkinson-cycle, 98-horsepower, 1.8-liter I-4 and a 60-kW (80-horsepower) electric motor, for a total combined system output of 134 horsepower with a continuously variable transmission and nickel-metal-hydride battery pack. The technology has been used in hybrids to maximize fuel economy, but could be altered to create a sporty driving experience.

"Our hybrid technology is adaptable," Toyota's powertrain director Gerald Killman told Autocar. "There is flexibility in the application of our hybrid system; we don't want to develop a new one when we can give ours more character."

One such application is on the upcoming Lexus CT 200h, which will feature the Prius' hybrid drivetrain tuned for a sportier driving feel. Another example is the planned 2013 MR2 replacement which will feature a similar drivetrain to the Prius, but with a 1.5-liter engine, rather than 1.8-liter.

Toyota's ultimate goal is to develop Prius as a full hybrid lineup featuring the brand's latest technology. Additionally, by 2020, Toyota aims to offer a hybrid version of every single one of its models. Toyota currently only offers hybrid versions of five of its vehicles, but also offers two hybrid-only models with a third on the way.

Although Toyota's hybrid powertrain is proven, its technology is becoming increasingly dated. Do you think Toyota should accelerate its battery development program to push out new hybrid technology to keep up with competitors, or is its current hybrid system good enough for now? Techno-geeks, sound off in the comments below.

Source: Autocar

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