Thrift In A Recession: New Toyota Prius To Get 107 MPG

New battery technology will allow Prius to challenge Chevy Volt

The Toyota Prius is already the most gas-frugal car a consumer can buy today, but the automaker will go it one better next month when it introduces a new 107 mpg plug-in hybrid version of the car at the auto show in Frankfurt Germany next month.

The car will be the cleanest and most technically advanced Prius built to date, Toyota said today.

The plug-in hybrid sedan features a newly designed, compact lithium-ion battery that enables the plug-in Prius to achieve a remarkably low fuel consumption rating of 2.2 liters per 100 kilometers (107 miles per gallon U.S.) and CO2 emissions of just 49 grams per kilometer.

The current Prius is rated at 72.4 mpg based on European mileage testing, though it registers 50 mpg in combined city/highway driving based on U.S. testing.

The new Prius, says Toyota, will go up to 20 km (or 13.4 miles) on battery power alone, a significant improvement over the 2 kilometer range offered by the current model. In the current Prius, a driver can travel up to about two miles in typical city driving on the battery before the gas motor kicks in. Thereafter the car balances battery power and gas power to achieve the high mileage.

The Prius is by far the top selling hybrid vehicle in the U.S. and the world.

Aside from the new battery, the new Prius is equipped with the same 1.8-liter gasoline engine and electric motor setup as the current car. Toyota claims the battery can be charged in about 90 minutes.

The Prius plug-in hybrid will go on sale in the U.S. in early 2012 and in Europe next summer

Unlike the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf, the Prius Plug-in will likely have a price tag that's below $30,000. The Prius Plug-in is expected to sell for $3,000 to $5,000 more than the standard Prius, which starts at $23,520.

The plug-in Prius follows Chevrolet into the market. Chevy launched the plug-in Volt last November, which gets up to 40 mpg on a battery charge depending on how aggressively the driver works the pedal.

The idea behind the plug-in is that a vast majority of U.S. drivers travel less than 40 miles per day. Those who buy a Volt, for example, can conceivably travel on battery power alone for much of their driving. And unlike full electric vehicles, the driver need not fear running out of juice because there is a gas motor backing up the battery.

Toyota opted for a lower driving range for the Prius so that it could keep the battery smaller and the price lower than the Volt, which costs $39,145.

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