Late last week, the Nikkei newspaper reported that Toyota will indeed produce a hybrid minivan wearing the Prius badge. The minivan is expected sometime in 2011 and will likely become the first Toyota production vehicle equipped with a lithium-ion battery pack developed in-house. This seven-seater will appeal to a family-oriented buyer with a projected price of somewhere in the mid-20 thousand dollar range. That's all we know about the Prius minivan, but this vehicle's overall importance goes well beyond the fact that another hybrid is coming to the market.
First of all, it's a minivan. Now, that might not sound like a big deal, but this Prius-badged vehicle will likely become the first hybrid minivan available in the U.S. and that's significant because people have been asking for one for sometime now. Moving seven people around efficiently is not easy, but a Prius minivan could certainly accomplish the task.
Second, the Prius-badged minivan confirms reports of a family of vehicles being developed around the Prius nameplate. This minivan finally gives us proof that the Prius name and badge will make its way onto at least one vehicle that's not the standard Prius, though reports suggest many more are still to come.
Finally, the Prius-badged minivan will use lithium-ion batteries, a first for a non-plug-in Toyota model. All other Toyota hybrids utilize the tried-and-true nickel metal hydride power source. Toyota execs have gone on record stating that lithium-ion technology is not ready for hybrid vehicles, but this minivan will utilize the batteries, indicating a possible shift in thinking at the company.
Now, we don't get all giddy about minivans around here that often and we're still not jumping up and down in celebration, but we do understand that sometimes it's not really about the vehicle at all. It's about the brand's future and the direction Toyota might take it in the years ahead.