About 15 years in the past, after a number of years as a mechanical engineer engaged on inner combustion engines, I moved into the rising world of electrical autos. Quite a bit has modified in that point. The expertise for certain, but additionally the issues and the best way ahead. Ten years in the past, the electrification debate had shifted “Can we do it?” to “How quickly can we do it?” 5 years in the past, governments started imposing timetables for finishing the transition to electrical energy. However because the world continues to vary, the questions change once more, and the street to full electrical energy faces obstacles in development and supplies. And in all that point, Toyota has modified little, avoiding a fast shift to electrical autos and doubling down on hybrids.
Architecturally, the Toyota Prius is not a lot totally different than it was 25 years in the past. However Toyota’s stability and deliberate modifications have made the brand new Prius, particularly the Prius Prime, the best reply for many individuals, together with many individuals seeking to purchase a brand new all-electric automotive. The rise in horsepower and vary, together with vastly improved dealing with and styling, could put this automotive on the radar of many individuals who by no means thought they’d take into account a Prius.
The styling of the fifth technology Prius is likely one of the massive modifications from earlier fashions, however the numbers on the Prius Prime counsel vital innovation underneath the pores and skin. The automotive has a mixed 220 horsepower and can journey 44 miles on electrical energy alone (39 miles in prime trims.) The 4th technology Prime had a paltry 119 horsepower and 25 miles of EV vary. As an electrical car engineer, I used to be very excited to talk with Toyota about these main powertrain modifications. However the modifications weren’t vital and the basic structure stays unchanged. There’s additionally a four-cylinder Atkinson cycle inner combustion engine with a lithium-ion battery and two gearbox-mounted engine turbines. In reality, this seems to be quite a bit like the primary Prius in 1997.
The nickel-metal hydride battery that had remained in some variations of the automotive disappeared for the fifth technology. The swap to lithium-ion stands out as the largest change in 25 years, and it took them some time to drag it off. Toyota is conservative with its modifications, so your 4Runner will nonetheless drive when the solar goes supernova.
Whereas the structure is similar, the horsepower and EV vary numbers are considerably totally different. The outgoing Plug-in Prius Prime options an 8.8 KWh lithium-ion pack that gives 25 miles of electrical vary. The brand new mannequin has a 13.6 KWh lithium-ion battery that’s good for an electrical vary of 44 miles. The 54% improve in pack power provides a 76% improve within the all-electric vary. That places the Prius Prime EV vary above the 41 miles the common particular person drives in america every day, making this a full EV for most individuals within the US more often than not. The added battery capability makes the automotive about 200 kilos heavier than the outgoing Prius Prime and about 100 kilos greater than the plug-in model.
In case you have the highest Prime trim, you possibly can optionally add a 185-watt photo voltaic roof. It expenses the traction battery when parked and provides the 12v system whereas driving. Will probably be attention-grabbing to see precise testing, however based mostly on typical photo voltaic panel outputs, you may actually solely get a number of miles per day trip of vary. The added vary and cooler cabin would solely be value it if you happen to plan to park exterior all day anyway.
The onboard charger is just 3.5kW, a slight bump from the earlier 3.3kW. Most electrical autos and plug-in hybrid automobiles are 6.6 kw or better, however 3.5 kW must be sufficient for a four-hour cost at 240 V. The battery pack is rated at 266 volts, which is a discount of a few hundred volts from the earlier plug-in Prius. Most traction batteries transfer in the wrong way. The decrease voltage could cut back prices within the charging and energy conversion system, nevertheless it’s laborious to inform and not using a cutout. Sometimes, decrease voltage means much less environment friendly energy transmission and extra copper, however these methods and their tradeoffs are advanced.
The battery is bigger but additionally decrease, packed underneath the seats. This leads to a extra environment friendly load space and a decrease heart of gravity. Few folks had been clamoring for a decrease cg of their Prius, however the change is noticeable. Whereas the outdated Prius Prime will squeal the tires with the slightest cornering forces, the brand new automotive feels prefer it may really be enjoyable on a twisty street. I am certain somebody will take it to a observe quickly and tell us. A part of that sportier really feel comes from the opposite massive change: the electrical motor. It is now good for 161bhp by itself. You might fairly drive this factor in EV mode with out sweating bullets each time you should enter the freeway. The inner combustion engine has an influence of 150 hp. Sadly, the 2 do not instantly add as much as make a 311-horsepower Prius. The engine and engine peak at totally different factors, and the utmost complete energy is “solely” 220 horses. The automotive has two engines, labeled MG1 and MG2, with MG standing for “Motor Generator”. The engineers claimed that one of many engines was used for regeneration and the opposite for energy. Nevertheless, the datasheet labels the larger one’s options as “Drive Entrance Wheels, Regenerate on Braking.” I think they each make some output and a few energy output at totally different occasions, managed by an algorithm aimed toward peak efficiency. We’re probably only one algorithm change away from a 300-odd-hp Prius with a GR efficiency badge on the again. Would not that be nice for branding?
The common, non-Prime Prius is accessible with a rear electrical motor that makes the automotive all-wheel drive. When requested why it wasn’t obtainable on Prime, I used to be instructed it was for packaging causes. This appears affordable for the reason that battery is packed underneath the rear seat and is considerably bigger within the Prime. Sadly, Toyota does not like me sufficient to let me dismantle their pre-production automotive within the car parking zone. I used to be crawling underneath the again of the automotive, although, and I am not satisfied it will not push an electrical motor again there sooner or later. Time will inform.
The drag coefficient within the new Prius is up 8% over the outdated mannequin: 0.27 in comparison with 0.25 in line with Toyota. Nevertheless, the brand new automotive is noticeably smaller than earlier than. I took a photograph of the brand new Prime and the present Prime parked subsequent to one another and rapidly sketched out a tough frontal space. The brand new Prime seems to be round 10% smaller. Because the complete aerodynamic drag is a operate of the drag coefficient and the frontal space, it seems that the overall aerodynamic drag could also be rather less. By the best way, the brand new automotive seems to be like it will be a good match within the again seat, however I (5’11”) match by a scant inch. Taller folks and taller torsos could have a much less comfy expertise.
The expertise inside obtained a slight improve. The display screen that was within the heart of the dashboard between the driving force and entrance passenger has been moved straight in entrance of the driving force. It is too busy, in my view, with icons and warnings and efficiency rankings, nevertheless it’s not a lot totally different from the outgoing mannequin. The middle display screen has been rotated to panorama and is way simpler on the eyes with higher distinction and fewer glare. One notable change that sounds minor, however I believe is type of cool: the lock/unlock sound exterior the automotive is totally different and distinctive to the Prius. So that you get one thing totally different than that “beep beep” you hear in each car parking zone from each Toyota constructed within the final 20 years.
Some folks complained that the brand new Prius wasn’t totally electrical, however the method Toyota is taking with the Prime is sensible in a resource-constrained world. Automotive corporations like Ford and Stellantis are concluding that the battery assets will not be there to show the world totally electrical within the close to future. Battery manufacturing is restricted, as is the manufacturing of battery assets similar to lithium and cobalt. Given finite assets, Toyota’s argument is that it makes extra sense to construct eight 13 kWh plug-in hybrids than to construct one 100 kWh all-electric car. Past that 44 miles of EV vary, the hybrid-powered Prime has an estimated gasoline financial system of 52 mpg and the comfort of getting an alternative choice to the frustratingly inconsistent EV charging community. Toyota could have made the Prius Prime a compelling different for EV patrons.
What did Toyota change within the new Prius Prime? Technically: little or no. The battery is greater and the engine is extra highly effective, nevertheless it’s primarily unchanged from the earlier Prime, and architecturally the identical because the one launched 1 / 4 of a century in the past. The modifications which have been made lead to an total a lot better automotive, particularly for these shopping for greater than only a gadget. The styling could assist soften the Prius’ stigma, the bigger battery makes the Prime a logical contender for the EV purchaser, and the iterative evolution of the powertrain probably means it retains Toyota’s legendary reliability. The corporate expects to promote about 50,000 Prius automobiles this yr with about 15,000 of these being the plug-in Prime. Toyota bought almost 1 / 4 million Prius automobiles in 2012, however gross sales have slowed to the purpose the place 50,000 looks as if an affordable estimate. However this could be a second of restoration. With the battery, engine and styling, Toyota could have made the best modifications to make the Prius Prime an thrilling automotive for a lot of who would not have thought-about it earlier than.