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3rd generation Toyota Prius is of “conventional type”. Will not use plug-in hybrid system

10, 31. 2008

   Amid the reports of car sales declining in the wake of the financial crisis triggered in the United States, people are talking about the new model of Prius which is shown on the website for Prius fans, "PRIUSCHAT.COM", ahead of the Detroit Motor Show to open on Jan. 13, 2008 where the new model is to make its debut. The new model had earlier been expected to be changed to the so-called "plug-in hybrid car" of which the battery would be rechargeable by connecting to the wall plug-in of ordinary homes, but the change is not made on the car shown on the website.

Fitted with solar panel, 1,800cc engine displacement?

   Toyota USA on Oct. 10, 2008 confirmed the photo of the new model of Purius appeared on PRIUSCHAT.COM was genuine. It is seen from the photo that the new model is sporty. The shape of the body was carried over unchanged from the 2nd generation Prius with five-door hatchback. But the shape of the new model is closer to the streamline shape to meet the resistance of the airflow coming from the sharp design of the front part of the body.

   Motor magazines and auto fans speculated as follows:

   The Prius cars have hitherto carried the engines of 1,500cc displacement. But the displacement for the 3rd generation is increased up to 1800cc. The new model has a solar panel (solar battery) on the roof to supply the power needed for the air-conditioner and other devices. The mileage for the 2nd generation was about 20 kilometers per liter, but this is increased to about 30 kilometers.

   About these speculations, a spokesperson at the Toyota headquarters said with a wry smile, "I can't give you any comment on the product. Please wait until the Detroit (Motor Show)."

   There is much talk about the car on the internet, and "we still receive a certain level of good appraisal about the current model of the Prius cars although it has already been five years since they were first introduced. It is even getting better. There may be high expectation (for a model change) against this backdrop," the spokesperson further said.

Development of lithium-ion battery is the challenge

   A rumor had it earlier that the new model of Prius cars would carry lithium-ion batteries to become the so-called "plug-in hybrid cars" that can be recharged by plugging into the home wall plugs. But the rumor did not come true in the latest model change. The 3rd generation Prius carries the nickel-hydrogen cells as the earlier models did. But the capacity of the batteries seems to have been increased to extend the running distance when driven by the electric motors.

   The plug-in hybrid car is said to be the "most advanced eco-car" to be available. But it is taking time to manufacture such a car for practical use because it is taking time to develop lithium-ion cells. The development of lithium-ion cells is of the life-or-death importance because the nickel-hydrogen cells have only small capacity and can not give a good mileage when mounted on cars. Thus it can be said that practical plug-in hybrid cars can be produced as soon as the lithium-ion barriers have been developed.

Toyota is developing such new battery at Panasonic EV Energy, the company established jointly with Panasonic. It is understood, however, that the efforts are faced by many challenges to overcome, such as making the batteries with sufficient resistance to vibrations caused by the running of the cars. It also takes time to secure safety for the cars, according to the company.

   "The 3rd generation car to be displayed at the Detroit (Motor Show) and the plug-in hybrid car will be totally different cars from each other. We are in the middle of experimenting it. We are using Prius cars only for tests while developing (the plug-in hybrid cars)," said the spokesperson at the Toyota headquarters in response to the expectation for the "plug-in model" of Prius.

   Toyota is aiming at starting to sell plug-in hybrid cars by the end of 2009.

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