The Toyota Prius is the best-selling hybrid in the world and the brand is ensuring the next generation has even better fuel economy to keep that title alive.
The Japanese manufacturer is focused on three strategies to improve the already-impressive gas mileage for the fourth-generation model due in 2015.
Those key point are tires, aerodynamics and weight to maximize the Prius’ gas mileage. Since their 1997 inception, all Prius cars have run on tires that have a low rolling-resistance. A criticism of the first generation cars was that the low rolling resistance tires felt like “banana peels” because they lacked grip, but that lack translated to fuel savings.
Aerodynamics is the second strategy Toyota is using to maximize the fuel economy. The current model has a drag coefficient of 0.25; This sounds impressive until you consider that Toyota’s new FR-S sports car manages to be only slightly worse at 0.27.
One concern is that this could cut into cargo room with a sharply declining tailgate. Theoretically that could force some drivers to put items on the roof which dramatically hurts fuel consumption, though not on a consistant basis.
Finally, Toyota is attempting to cut weight in the new model. The extended-wheelbase PriusV uses a hood made of aluminum to cut down on weight. Aluminum is more expensive than steel but also harder and costlier to repair if damaged. This could make the next Prius more expensive and fender benders particularly pricey.
More: 2015 Toyota Prius Cuts Weight, Improves Efficiency