Join Date: Apr 2011
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Two Versions: NiMH or Lithium-Ion Batteries
Toyota has just launched the bigger 'Mama Prius' in Japan, officially named the Prius Alpha there, the Prius V in North-America (coming out later this year), and the Prius+ in Europe (coming in 2012). It looks similar to a cross between the 3rd generation Prius and a MPV. Read on for more details.
What's most interesting about the Toyota Prius Alpha is that it is the first commercially available Toyota hybrid to feature Lithium-ion batteries:
"The Prius α is available in two interior configurations: a five-seat, two-row model and a seven-seat, three-row model, the latter's third row enabled by a space-saving lithium-ion drive battery--a first for a Toyota-brand mass-produced hybrid vehicle--in the center console. (The five-seat model uses a NiMH battery pack.)"
The third row is probably pretty cramped for adults, but can be really useful for children.
The engine is the same 1.8-liter Atkinson cycle, 4-cylinder as the regular Prius. Fuel efficiency in the Japanese test cycles is of 31.0 km/L (73 mpg US, 3.2 L/100km) in the 10-15 test cycle outlined by MLIT (equivalent to 75 g/km of CO2 emissions) and 26.2 km/l in MLIT's JC08 test cycle (equivalent to 89 g/km of CO2 emissions).
Because it is based on the 3rd generation Prius, the Alpha it is very aerodynamic, with a coefficient of drag (CD) of 0.29.
Toyota had a monthly target of 3,000 Prius Alpha per month, but orders have already reached 25,000, showing how much pent up demand there is for a larger hybrid. This could be problematic since Toyota's supply chain has been badly damaged by the earthquake and tsunami. If demand is too strong in Japan, Toyota could delay launch in North-America, but we'll have to wait and see.