Toyota has already picked the low-hanging fruit when it comes to boosting the Prius hybrid's fuel economy. But the Japanese automaker's planning on climbing a little further up that tree.

That's what Inside Line is reporting about the next, fourth-generation Prius, which is likely to debut in 2015. The world's best-selling hybrid will have better aerodynamics as well as lighter materials and tires that have less rolling resistance, Inside Line reported, citing a person familiar with the process that it didn't identify.

While no fuel-economy figures were estimated, such gains will boost the Prius hybrid's fuel-economy beyond the EPA-rated 50 miles per gallon that the hatchback model gets now.

As it is, Toyota continues to lengthen its sales lead over other hybrids. Through the first five months of the year, Toyota has boosted U.S. Prius sales by 73 percent from a year earlier to 107,504 units, with about 18,000 units coming from the new Prius C compact, Prius V wagon and Prius plug-in hybrid variants. Toyota releases June sales figures this week.

Toyota has sold more than 2.6 million Prius vehicles globally since Toyota launched the model in Japan in 1997.


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  • 60 Comments
      Spec
      • 3 Years Ago
      It is cool that they are improving but they are probably running into some diminishing returns. Going from 50 MPG to 55 MPG doesn't really mean much compared to going from 10 MPG to 15MPG. But it does give them bragging rights. I'd like to see them improve the PiP by increasing the battery size and making it capable of going a little faster in electric-only mode.
        HVH20
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Spec
        I would beg to differ. While going from 50-55mpg won't save you a ton of cash, its only a 10% gain. 10% gain on a full size truck gets you from 16mpg to 17.6mpg which isn't too noticable. Right now I can get a 10% gain or loss depending on the weather, tire pressure, some tape on the front of my car, tire pressure 5PSI off, engine block heater, etc... Its pretty easy to find somewhere to improve for another 10%. They still haven't gone the shutter grille route yet, I don't think their underbody plastics are optimized, rear diffusers, wheel covers, getting rid of their stupid heavy seats, or how about brining lean burn, direct injection, downsize the engine displacement, etc... There is a ton of very practical and easy solutions to squeek 10%. The prius is great for the average driver to get 50mpg all day, but its nowhere near the limit. Adding a plug, even at the tiny battery size of the current PHEV Prius will do wonders to an average drive cycle. If they could keep the prius as the bulky pig 4-door sedan it is and get 65mpg without a plug that would be something special. Yes, hypermilers can get that now, but I'm talking your average joe consumer.
          PR
          • 3 Years Ago
          @HVH20
          DaveMart - FYI - It isn't just VW. It's all car makers. The United States made it mandatory as of 2007, and the EU is supposed to be making it mandatory this year. This law was passed in the US in the Fall of 2000 due to the media firestorm surrounding the tire problems with the Ford Exploder (er, Explorer). Too many hockey moms in SUV's got in wrecks due to tire problems (especially low inflation) and ended up looking like they had been in hockey fights themselves. http://www.johnsoncontrols.com/content/us/en/products/automotive_experience/featured-stories/advanced-tpms.html
          DaveMart
          • 3 Years Ago
          @HVH20
          @PR: Let's look at two cases to evaluate savings. The first is that oil supplies remain adequate. In that case although savings are good they are not essential, and it is much less economic to save still more on a vehicle which gets good mileage. The second case is where oil supplies are ultimately inadequate, and so prices continue to rise, mitigated only by ever greater savings in petrol/switching to electric and so on: In that case when petrol hits maybe $12/gallon, the savings on the more economical car are just as great as in the gas guzzler you show. At that stage the gas guzzler is probably not on the road at all. Oil supplies are a diminishing resource, and to the extent that we don't switch to electric, we are running up a down escalator, and even the most efficient cars have to get better, and the financial incentive increases with time.
          PR
          • 3 Years Ago
          @HVH20
          HVH20 10% better efficiency leads to very different overall savings in the two cases you mentioned. Here is what happens for cars doing 15,000 miles a year at $4 dollar gas (cuz $4 makes the math easier). 50 mpg == 300 gallons == $1,200 dollars 55 mpg == 272 gallons == $1,091 dollars Savings is 28 gallon and $109 dollars. 16 mpg == 937 gallons and $3750 dollars 17.6 mpg == 852 gallons and $3409 dollars Savings is 85 gallons and $341 dollars As you can see, a 10% savings in mpg leads to more than 3 times the savings in a low mpg vehicle, compared to a high mpg vehicle. For a 50 mpg hybrid to save the same 85 gallons and $340 dollars in gas, it would have to increase it's mpg by 20 mpg to 70 mpg! That would require a 40% improvement over the current efficiency! ----------------------- This is one of the basic flaws of using MPG to measure fuel consumption compared to using Liters per 100 Km or similar measures. MPG as a method of measurement makes higher and higher mpg cars appear to save more gas than they actually do. Using Liters per 100 Km gives a more accurate perspective.
          DaveMart
          • 3 Years Ago
          @HVH20
          @PR: Many thanks for the info. Naturally I follow events here in Europe more carefully than in the US.
          PR
          • 3 Years Ago
          @HVH20
          DaveMart -- I agree that these low mpg cars will go the way of the dinosaur if gas prices go way up. Here is how the math changes with the $12 dollar gas you posited: 50 mpg == 300 gallons == $3,600 dollars 55 mpg == 272 gallons == $3,273 dollars Savings is 28 gallon and $327 dollars. 16 mpg == 937 gallons and $11,250 dollars 17.6 mpg == 852 gallons and $10,227 dollars Savings is 85 gallons and $1,023 dollars The $1,000 dollars in savings is pointless when instead you could buy an entire solar PV system and lease 2 brand new EV's/PHEV's for 3 years for the same amount of money as buying gas for a single 16-18 mpg vehicle for the same 3 years.
          DaveMart
          • 3 Years Ago
          @HVH20
          Something as simple as what VW are doing, fitting pressure sensors on every tire and alerting drivers when they are non-optimum, and making sure they are inflated to the right level as they sensors in garages are variable can increase real world mileage considerably, although it won't affect the EPA. Big gains are still possible with ICE, even before plug in hybrids.
        DaveMart
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Spec
        Spec: I take your point, and the really big savings from an overall perspective of reducing oil consumption the easy savings are from improving the gas guzzlers. Just the same, savings can be cumulative to some degree, and if Toyota make good incremental progress in the five areas they have named, in weight reduction, thermal management, air and rolling resistance, engine and hybrid drive efficiency and lower electric power consumption, then the cumulative savings may be more substantial than you indicate. Not that a bigger battery and higher EV mode speed wouldn't be nice!
      Nick
      • 3 Years Ago
      Give it a plug, and have buyers buy the optional power cord / charger if they want. Would a plug/socket really add that much money to a car that already has a large battery?
        skierpage
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Nick
        @Nick, I love the idea of plugging in, but the regular Prius can only travel 1 mile in EV mode and you have to keep to under 25mph. Toyota would have to add a small on-board AC charger as well as a plug. And add the smarts so you can tell it "I'm heading home and will plug in, so you can drain the battery more than normal operation." The new Honda Accord hybrid will only comes as a plug-in, so the trend is plug-ward. But I don't think Toyota will change the Prius approach until the "gas-only mpg" part of some PHEV's window sticker beats a Prius.
        DaveMart
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Nick
        The battery for the plug in is around 3 times as big. The premium in what they are charging, at least, is substantial. We don't really have the info to work out how much the extra cost is to them. You can't take costs for an even bigger battery such as that in the Leaf and assume that you can do it in something like the PHEV Prius at the same price per kwh.
          Nick
          • 3 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          The current hybrid's batt is already big enough to drive several miles, no? Even if it was only 5 miles of EV driving, it would still be great!
      Ford Future
      • 3 Years Ago
      Increase the power of the electric motor. Increase the power in the battery. Allows the electric motor to do more work, and the battery to store more energy. Incremental increases will get the job done.
      HVH20
      • 3 Years Ago
      This isn't news.
      greg
      • 3 Years Ago
      As far as decreasing the Cd, they could do what Honda did with the 1st gen. Insight, but do it with a better design. Honda's wheel skirts were poorly designed and did not fit well, sometimes coming off at speed. I know this because I own one. Maybe Toyota could do a better design that is more secure and easier to remove. Even make it an option. So it may make a car a little uglier in some people's eyes, but to a lot of the hybrid crowd, it's the mpg's that count. This is assuming that wheel skirts really make enough of a difference in the Cd to increase MPG's.
      Ford Future
      • 3 Years Ago
      I don't see an increase in the power of the electric motor. They should do what Chevy did with the Volt. The benefit of the new battery was split to give the car More Range, but, they also reduced the bulk, size, of the battery. At some point the Prius is going to have to switch over to a Series-Hybrid. From a national point of view the Series Hybrid simply saves the nation more gas, as most people don't drive 40 miles a day. Especially in Japan, where they import every gallon of fuel.
        DB
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Ford Future
        Why must the Prius switch over to a Series-Hybrid? Series Hybrids are almost always considerably less efficient that parallel or EVT hybrids at steady cruise. Even the Volt, which was orginally pitched as a series hybrid, went EVT because it was more efficient on the highway. The issue with a Series Hybrid is that you have the losses of the generator, two invertors, and a motor to deal with. EVT's (like the Prius) have a simple direct efficient mechanical connection at highway speeds. When you have a lot of regen braking, you make up for the series hybrid losses. When you are driving at a steady rate, regen doesn't help you. This is the beauty of a EVT. It acts like a series hybrid at lower (City) speeds and a parallel hybrid and higher (highway) speeds, giving you the best of both worlds.
          DB
          • 3 Years Ago
          @DB
          Check out this article on how the Volt works. Look at section "Mode 4: High-speed series-parallel hybrid mode" http://www.insideline.com/chevrolet/volt/2011/how-the-2011-chevrolet-volt-works.html
          DB
          • 3 Years Ago
          @DB
          You forget the the other main advantage of an EVT. It's MORE efficient than a Series-Hybrid. The Volt has a huge battery, but chose to go with an EVT Hybrid instead of a Series-Hybrid because the mechanical transfer path was more efficent (Mechanical steady state =~92% vs a Series hybrid ~80%) at steady-state cruise at high speed. Here is the pattent on the Volt Transmission titled "Output Split Electrically Variable-Transmission with Propulsion using One or Two Motors". http://www.plugincars.com/truth-about-volt-mechanical-linkages-starts-emerge-81480.html He is a great writeup on how the EVT work in a Prius: http://www.evworld.com/library/toyotahs2.pdf
          Ford Future
          • 3 Years Ago
          @DB
          The only advantage of the Toyota system is cost, as it needs a smaller battery.
      Seph
      • 3 Years Ago
      I just hope that engine-hybrids doesn't evolve into plug-in hybrids.
      throwback
      • 3 Years Ago
      I'm not sure they have to get that much better mileage, it's not like anyone else is close. However, since they have the C, they should consider going for more exotic (lighter) materials such a carbon fiber and/or aluminum for the doors, hood, deck lid and roof. It will cost more but the C is there for the lower end of the market. The demographics of the average Prius buyer indicates they can afford a higher price.
        DaveMart
        • 3 Years Ago
        @throwback
        Toyota are concentrating on lightweighting using cheaper, non-exotic materials. They built the FT-Bh to show the technologies they are hoping to bring in: http://www.greencarcongress.com/2012/03/ftbh-20120306.html So their ideas include reducing mass by using more high tensile steel and foam materials, improving drag and road resistance, new long stroke Atkinson cycle engines and more efficient hybridisation, better thermal management and lower power consumption. How much of it will make it into this iteration is not clear, but the direction is.
      mapoftazifosho
      • 3 Years Ago
      Make every-single-one a plug-in and I'll be happy.
        Mike Dimmick
        • 3 Years Ago
        @mapoftazifosho
        I won't, I don't have anywhere to plug in. You get diminishing returns from adding more storage capacity to a charge-sustaining hybrid, so forcing all customers to pay for the additional capacity isn't smart. Spend the money on other areas that will benefit all customers.
          skierpage
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Mike Dimmick
          A bigger battery means the car can run more in efficient electric mode and/or with engine operation optimized for mpg, so Toyota will do it. As the battery gets bigger there's more value to plugging in, so if the additional cost of a receptacle and AC charging is modest why not offer it as an option?
      Sasparilla Fizz
      • 3 Years Ago
      Well add those updates mentioned and add Direct Injection on the engine and the Prius should see a significant boost in fuel economy. The big question will be whether Toyota increases the Plug-in Prius pack capacity with the redesign since that would be easy to do at that point and battery prices should have gone down by a significant amount by that time...
        Anne
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Sasparilla Fizz
        I have a hard time imagining Toyota won't increase pack size. The spitting contest is shifting from mpg to electric range.
      Brian
      • 3 Years Ago
      I am a fan of Toyota, but not hybrids or electric cars. I think hybrids and electrics are a fad that will go away with more efficient IC motors and natural gas. We have plently of oil and gas to last for centuries. After that we will make gasoline from coal, and then after that we will make liquid hydrogen from solar. The IC engine will be around forever.
        Marcopolo
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Brian
        Brian There's an easy test to your theory. Australia has a similar sort of auto industry as the US. Australia has the largest LPG network in the world. (LPG is sold for 50% the pump price of gasoline) . Yet the Prius is a huge seller, Lexus Hybrids outsell turbo-diesels and LPG luxury models. Oil is reaching the end of it's economic life as a fuel. (Other oil product becoming to valuable for oil to waste as fuel). Gasoline from coal is very expensive, uneconomic, and politically unacceptable. NG, is not plentiful everywhere. Hydrogen is a possibility. But, in the meantime over 3 million vehicles are employing EV technology, today!
        Dave
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Brian
        Oil is finite. Natural gas is finite. (and better used to heat our homes) Solar is nearly infinite but the equipment used to harness it is finite. Ditto wind, hydro, etc... Nuclear is the only option that can realistically last for millennia.
        Nick
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Brian
        Lol, someone's going to get a rude awakening. Here's a few things to consider: -We do not have plenty of oil to go "for centuries". No one, not even the most fervent oil sheik will tell you that. -Burning oil, gas, and the horrible gas-from-coal, are emitting spectacular amounts of filth into air, water and soil. Any comment on that, or are you just accepting that for the sake of comfort? -Why would hydrogen be produced from solar energy, when solar energy can directly be used to charge batteries / capacitors? -CAFE numbers are not going to be reached with an optimized ICE. Only dramatic weight reductions and electrification can achieve that over the long run. There are more hybrids / EVs being readyed for production than at any time before in history.
      SVX pearlie
      • 3 Years Ago
      If mileage is of such importance, smaller is going to have to be part of the solution.
        skierpage
        • 3 Years Ago
        @SVX pearlie
        Since the demise of the original Honda Insight, no one has sold a car in the USA with better mpg than the Prius. Subcompact and city cars like the Fiat 500, Mini, Smart all get substantially *worse* mpg. I think Toyota is sitting pretty with "highest mpg in America... and it's a midsize car!", and until someone else comes out with a smaller car with better mpg, Toyota won't change the formula. Its only competition at 50 mpg is the Prius c!
        Chris M
        • 3 Years Ago
        @SVX pearlie
        Toyota already has a "smaller" in the Prius C. It can't get much smaller than the C unless they go to a 2-seater, or an exotic design like the IQ (difficult to hybridize due to lack of space).
          GoodCheer
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Chris M
          I'm of the opinion that Toyota should have taken 3" off the height and 4" off the width of the regular Prius, while leaving the length more or less as it is. As SVX mentioned, this would reduce the A in cDA by about 10%, but maintaining the length would leave much of the cargo area intact.
          SVX pearlie
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Chris M
          Yes, two-seaters don't sell as well as two-doors, which don't sell as well as sedans. But if you're talking about best commuting mileage, then that's the car to offer. Note also that a lower roofline can flatten the car for a (slightly) better Cd at the same time.
          SVX pearlie
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Chris M
          And what's wrong with a CRX-like Prius / Prius-engined CRX?
          Mike Dimmick
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Chris M
          Over in Europe we have the Yaris Hybrid instead of the Prius C. It's 90mm shorter than the C, only marginally larger than the regular Yaris - there's 10-20mm more front overhang. [The dimensions diagram shows 790mm for the regular Yaris overhang, 800mm for the Yaris Hybrid, the wheelbase and rear overhang are the same, but the overall length is shown as 20mm longer.] @SVX pearlie: As Honda will tell you, two-seater cars don't sell in large numbers (original Insight, CR-Z). The goal of the Prius is to be a replacement for traditional family cars. The design has always been compromised by the need to drive as much like a regular car as possible, including fast (to me) 0-60 times and high top speeds. I'm sure if Toyota saw a market for two-seater low-consumption versions, they'd build it. But it wouldn't be called a Prius Liftback, and it wouldn't replace it either.
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 3 Years Ago
        @SVX pearlie
        I believe Dan has something to say about this.
        Letstakeawalk
        • 3 Years Ago
        @SVX pearlie
        Perhaps you mean "lighter" will have to be a bigger part? The size of the Prius is where it needs to be (need bigger? Prius V. need smaller? Prius C). Lightweight materials can always be implemented - at a price. This is where the Toyota/BMW cooperation will pay off, as Toyota gets access to BMW lightweight materials expertise and volume cost reductions.
          SVX pearlie
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          Thanks. At 6'5", you are the exception which proves the rule.
          Letstakeawalk
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          I stand corrected. Let the record show that SVX pearlie thinks the Prius has too much headroom.
          howam00
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          4 inches too much headroom?! I have a 2010 Prius (lift back now that there are 3 variants to distinguish between) and at 6'5" the only seat I can reasonable sit in with adequate headroom to sit up properly is the driver's seat when cranking it down to practically to its lowest setting. Both the passenger and rear seats are more cramped but I can sit there over short periods. If it had to commute that way every day though I never would have bought the car. Personally I think they should move the whole windshield area closer to the driver by 2 inches (or cut out all the dash space and move the driver closer) so there is more visibility and that would allow the rear to gain another inch or so which his needed. I'd also like a smaller and lighter lithium battery pack but I want that so I can have a little more depth in the cargo area so I can accommodate more stuff more easily and I'll certainly echo that a plug in that allows 15-20 miles is perfect for my use but not at a cost of $7-8k!. If it was $2-3k extra I'd probably be at the dealer now instead of waiting for the 2013 Leaf or someone else to come onto the scene. (I really want something more comfortable than the Leaf and realistically something with less range so I don't have to pay for the extra battery capacity that I don't need). I am not hurting for a car now so perhaps in 2 years the Leaf 2.0 will be out or Tesla's smaller/less expensive car will be out
          SVX pearlie
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          No, I actually meant "smaller", as in shorter, narrower and/or thinner. The Prius has at least 4" excess headroom which is adding multiple square feet to highway air resistance. And the sides are slab-like, where the greenhouse could taper inward to further reduce frontal area. That is, Toyota can attack the A part of CdA drag. It's also got more front and rear overhang than strictly necessary. Had I only intended that the car stay the exact same size, but just use more expensive materials to cut weight, then I would have used "lighter" instead of "smaller". The reduction in size cuts weight more or less linearly, although chopping the greenhouse cuts out heavy glass, which is always good. Perhaps Toyota can have less fake black glass as well. Again, this is if Toyota is serious about improving numbers - size costs fuel, simple as that.
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