Toyota’s Prius minivan hybrid for Japanese market gets lithium-ion battery

Article by Christian Andrei, on March 6, 2011

Toyota Motor Corp. will introduce the Prius minivan hybrid later this year. It is the first standard hybrid from Toyota that is powered by a lithium-ion battery. But an insider says that only the Japanese version of the car will get the advanced, lightweight power pack.

The U.S. version will receive the heavier nickel-metal hydride batteries found in the current Prius hatchback and Toyota's other gasoline-electric vehicles.

The source explained that as Japanese consumers prefer three rows of seats, Toyota is using lithium in the Japan-spec Prius minivan to free up more interior room.

It’s notable that the Prius V minivan seen at this year's Detroit auto show had only two rows of seats, while the Prius + variant displayed in Geneva has three rows. The nickel-metal battery requires the battery to consume space in a console between the driver's and passenger's seat.

The source said that Toyota is only doing this for cabin configuration considerations. Toyota spokesman Paul Nolasco declined to comment.

It was also reported that the minivan version of the Prius will start selling in Japan next month and is priced from 3 million yen ($36,590), when equipped with a lithium ion battery. A lower-grade version with a nickel-metal hydride battery will also be available and will be priced from 2.35 million yen ($28,660).

The new Toyota new Prius+ features a front end that features the latest evolution of the carmaker’s trapezoidal, Under Priority design. This design requires the upper grille to be kept as small as possible to provide smooth airflow over the upper body.

This design also requires a larger lower grille to ensure that there is more air flow under the bonnet to cool the engine. The upper grill is highlighted by a chrome-plated horizontal trim while the crests of the sharp-edged halogen headlamp clusters have adapted the signature curved line detail that had its debut on the current generation Prius.

Boosting the hybrid’s broad stance and driving stability are its flat, vertical surfaces of the bumper extremities that accommodate the vehicle’s LED Daytime Running Lights (DRLs). These bumper extremities also create 'aero-corners' that rectify the airflow passing over the front wheels, thereby minimizing turbulence within the wheel arches. Meanwhile, the rear end of the Prius+ is well-marked by top-hinged tailgate bordered with large combination lamp clusters with Synergy Blue ornamentation.

These lamp clusters flow around the corners of the hybrid’s bodywork to improve visibility while rear combination lamps have been spaced as widely as possible to maximize tailgate opening width and to boost its broad, stable rear stance. When viewed from the sides, Prius family triangle silhouette is unmistakable.

The Toyota Prius+ further reinterprets this design DNA by featuring a strong spindle shape – a result of long, seamless flow of the bonnet and the clean sweep of full-length side glazing as highlighted by the blacked-out B- and C-pillars.

This strong spindle shape is also created by the A-pillar and roofline, and a soaring crease in the lower bodywork that runs into the rear bumper. Playing an effective role in the aerodynamic efficiency of the new Prius+ is the smooth convergence of airflow from the roof and sides of the bodywork. Helping in this regard is the tapering form of the hybrid’s body and an optimized roof spoiler that smoothens the flow of air away from the vehicle.

Aiding them is an 'air kick' shape built into the rear combination lamp clusters as well as the aero corners to the rear bumper. Furthermore, front and rear spats in front of each wheel arch help suppress airflow changes around the tires, thereby augmenting steering performance and straight-line stability.

Likewise, the Prius+ is provided with 16-inch alloy wheels -- with aerodynamic wheel caps -- and 17-inch aluminum alloy rims all wrapped in tires with a rolling-resistance around 5-percent lower than those found in the standard Prius. All of these aerodynamic measures help the Prius+ achieve a best-in-class drag coefficient of Cd 0.28.

On the hand, the hybrid blue lamp ornamentation and Toyota badging, and the front wing 'Hybrid' badge all show that the Prius+ is equipped with the Hybrid Synergy Drive. Prius+ Customers could choose from seven available exterior colors, one of which is Toyota's White Pearl finish.

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