Toyota executives cited two reasons for their choice of nickel-metal hydride.
"It’s a tried-and-true technology that has a decade of success behind it," Toyota spokesman Greg Thome told us. "It's also got the lower-cost technology that we can offer to younger hybrid adopters." The nickel-metal hydride battery pack is located under the rear passenger seat, near the center of the vehicle, and sits low in the chassis to lower the vehicle's center of gravity.
Toyota engineers also made an effort to optimize the motor-generator for the five-door subcompact, Thome said.
"In addition to making the battery smaller, we took special pains to keep the motor-generator smaller, as well," he said. "It's constructed the same as the Prius Liftback's motor-generator, but we tried to optimize the sizing and packaging for a smaller vehicle." The motor's output is 60hp, versus 80hp on earlier Priuses.
The Prius family, unveiled two years ago at the Detroit Auto Show, also includes the Prius Liftback, the Prius v, and the plug-in Prius PHV, which will be introduced this year.
For a deep look at GM's Chevy Volt, we recommend you go to the Drive for Innovation site and follow the cross-country journey of EE Life editorial director Brian Fuller. In the trip, sponsored by Avnet Express, Fuller is taking the fire-engine-red Volt to innovation hubs across America, interviewing engineers, entrepreneurs, innovators, and students as he blogs his way across the country.
I like the look of this Prius--it definitely captures some of that sporty, minimialist look that seems to be a must among a lot of the cooler, boxy vehicles that appeal to the younger crowd. So with this Prius model, there is no charging--the hybrid approach means the gasoline engine charges the battery when in motion, right? Having to keep the vehicle charged would be a big problem since many citites still don't have adequate charging infrastructure available and younger buyers don't typically own homes where they can create that infrastructure on their own.
If they can sell it for under $19,000, I will seriously consider making a Prius my next car purchase. Up to now, I considered a hybrid to be out of my price range - and with plenty of non-hybrid small cars on the market getting great gas milage, it seemed like a hybrid powertrain wasn't worth the cost premium. But at thiis price, I'd be very interested.
The lower price could be a good test on the validity of the hybrid and EV models. Are these cars specialized second cars for those who have extra cash and want to demonstrate a commitment to green living. Or, are they viable autos that make sense as a primary vehicle?
If they succeed in volume, the recharging infrastructure will follow. If they succeed in volume, the price will stay in check or perhaps come down more.
That's a stunningly lower price, or maybe I haven't been paying attention recently. A friend and ex-colleague of mine who also lives way out here in the boonies bought one of the first Prius' at $35K. It was incredibly quiet, very powerful and impressed the heck out of me. But the price was too high. Under $19,000 looks very possible, and at least that earlier model was just fine for country driving. My friend is still very happy with it, and especially happy about all the money he's saved on gas.
This is a price point that will appeal to younger and first time buyers. On the other hand, I read recently, that one of the problems that the car companies had was that these buyers were foregoing automobiles. I have certianly noticed that with my sons and their friends. They don't seem to be rushing out to get their driver's licenses, much less a car. If there are a few that have a car, then they have no problem with asking for a ride. They also tend to live in cities where they can use public transport.
As for the Prius generally, these are relatively small cars. Even the standard Prius. So, for buyers with the money to buy one, they are typically second or third cars. Bringing the price down to this level might encourage some who commute by car to buy one just to insulate themselves from gasoline price shocks. I would certianly look at the Prius or the Fiat 500.
The companies do seem to following a model, which works. Bring out the more expensive model for those with a lot of disposable income. This allows one to recover engineering costs faster and to gain some experience with the new technology. This is the strategy articulated by Tesla in the all electric segment. There the cost of the batteries is very high. My understanding for the Tesla is that the battery pack was 25% of the $100K vehicle. The expectation is that the cost of the batteries will come down over time. It is happening more slowly than people thought.
Price is the key. I looked at a competing US made hybrid. The payback period (as comapred to the gasoline version) at $2.50 per gallon was less that two years. That was worth it. The Prius was always a little pricey as far as that goes. That is why Toyota still sells mostly conventionally gasoline powered cars.
One thing I haven't seen when it comes to the cost evaluation of hybrids and EVs is the cost of electricity. That's not free. So a cost analysis on whether a hybrid or EV pays for itself would have to include the cost of electricity, just as an environmental assessment would have to include the coal (usually) burned to create the electricity.
Rob, thanks for that moment of clarity. I totally agree, and it seems so obvious in hindsight once you've said it, but not so obvious to begin an analysis with. I think this is related to the total cradle-to-grave lifecycle costs you've often mentioned and written about, right?
I wonder if anyone has already done such an analysis on gasoline-powered vehicles?
I haven't actually seen those comparisons, Ann. All I've seen is that you'll never make up the cost difference between a hybrid and a conventional gas car. But that assumption was made when hybrids were $35K. At $19K, we have a different story. Even so, there are certainly cost and environmental consequences to electricity consumption -- that is, as long as most electricity is produced by coal or gas.
Rob, you make a good point -- but based on the article, this is not a plug-in hybrid, so the electricity to charge the battery is ultimately generated by burning gasoline, not coal or gas.
To Chuck's point, the Prius C is shorter than the standard Prius, but is 6 inches longer than the Yaris. And it's a lot longer than the 1990 Ford Festiva which I learned to drive in. What constitutes a "small car" is a matter of perspective.
Rob: Last year, Consumer Reports published a study comparing hybrids to non-hybrids to determine if there's a payback period, and if so, how long it would take. Here's a synopsis from the NY Times: "A car buyer who lays out an extra $6,200 extra to buy the hybrid version of the Lexus RX will get the money back in gas savings within five years, according to Consumer Reports magazine, but only if gasoline averages $8.77 a gallon."
Wow, that's a long wait, Chuck. Yet I would guess that issue changes as prices for hybrids come down. If hybrids don't cost that much more, the concept of what it takes to make up the differential goes away.
Thanks for the feedback and answers, Rob. I was betting that the $19K price tag would make a difference in those comparisons. And I agree with you on the importance of electricity production issues, AFA evaluating and comparing the sources and the environmental consequences of that source and its production methods.
Concerns about a hybrid's true mileage w/r to power generating costs are valid. but I suspect to be partially specious. I'm 63 and do not recall any mainstream conversation that included this topic in the past. Yes, it is part of the overall calculation but we should include the fact that electrical power transfer has much lower pollution that ICEs with tuneups, fuel spills, etc. and the power source is concentrated, so pollution control can be centralized, not distributed (I've lived in vehicle inspection states; what a farce that was!).
Similar to the hubbub about dying birds after the wind farm gets built: no concern before about starlings and kestrels before, but now! They are prime targets on the radar; how self-serving. Remove the big blades and forget about all the dying birds.
Having said that, a self-contained hybrid uses no more directly generated power than an ICE does; this is a separate discussion.
Rob, I don't have the figures in front of me, but the cost to charge was extermely low dompared to gasoline.
When figuring out the environmental impact from electricity production, you need to average the polution output over all the sources. For example, in Illinois, where I am now, we get much of our electricity from nuclear. We are also using renewable resources. Also, when looking at gasoline most people do not include the polution generated in transporting the oil, refining and transporting the gasoline. They just look at the burn products. So, if you are going to include the products of electriciity production for electric cars, you need to include all of those when looking at gasoline.
Another thing about using electricity for vehicles is that the equation can change over time without the owner of the car doing anything.
Don't be mis-lead with regard to the pollution factor of nuclear-powered steam-generated electricity.
The workers that mine the nuclear fuel burn a lot of fossil fuels getting to and from the mines, the equipment that transports and process the nuclear fuel also burn a lot of fossil fuel, and where the fossil fuel is processed using hydroelectric generated power, all that power is diverted away from consumers that then use mostly fossil-fuel generated electricity.
Additionally, the radioactive dust generated during the mining operations is certainly 'pollution' that would not have otherwise ben introduced into our otherwise breathable air and drinkable water.
Whe a nuclear power plant is constructed it requires more fossil fuel to build than any other form of power plant construction.
Once the nuclear fuel is spent, it becomes toxic waste forever, which in-turn is just another form of pollution. The machinery, manpower, and transportation of the waste also consumes massive amounts of fossil fuels.
Good points, Naperlou. I guess whenever you look at the environmental impact of a product, you have to look across the lifecycle of the product. You're right, gasoline has a complicated lifecycle from oil to pump.
Ann R Thryft; The earlier Prius's were more expensive, but partly because of options. My wife considered the Prius years ago, but could not justify the Nav system, 9 speaker audio, 6-CD changer, &c, &c, We bought a 2010 Prius because it didn't have these extraneous options, and thus was less expensive.
My hybrid Aspen on the other hand, was only built fully decked-out. It is a 2009, bought 1 year ago used, with a 5.7 Hemi V8, and if I pay attention to my driving, and in warm weather, I can average 22 mpg. If traffic conditions are excellent, I can average 26 mpg. The Prius can get 55 mpg, but it can't haul cargo, or tow my trailer.
Second vehicle? The Prius is a very capable first / only car. When I was shopping for wheels, I wanted to buy an efficient and possibly electric car, so I considered EVs and the (original) Insight, but with a family and occasional trips around the SF Bay and even across California, neither EV nor the two-seater Insight were the best choice as only vehicle, but a second hand Prius was a very good choice, giving me less than $1000 per year write-off and saving approx $1600 per year in buying less fuel... Two years later I found an affordable EV and have driven that as second car for my daily commute...
The Prius is a car that is much larger than it looks. It can truly seat 5 normal adults and I have regularly received surprised comments from people joining me for their first ride in a Prius that they were expecting much less space inside. Also the silent ride was a surprising feature. Power was sufficient to climb the steepest grades in the area, so I never felt the desire to buy anything bigger and less efficient.
To prove the internal space in the Prius: even though you can't fold the rear seats down (no access to the trunk space from inside the car due to battery positioning) I could transport a queen size wood-frame futon inside the Prius and still take a passenger for the ride...
I still love my 3 year old Prius. It has the same pickup/acceleration as my V6 Camery and costs less than 7 cents a mile for fuel. It's very quiet, especially compared to my Venza which costs about 20 cents per mile. The only non-normal service I've needed in 3 years is the drivers floor matt replacement.
I work for Industries for the blind and did a sound test with a bunch of our employess to see if my car was a safety hazard. I had them point at me as I drove around the parking lot. Despite the engine not running, they all could hear the tires on the pavement and knew exactly where I was. Our blind people can often 'see' far better than our sighted people. Sighted paople tend to not be aware of their surroundings.
It will be interesting to compare the specs on the new Prius to the old. Being designed for city driving, how well will it accelerate and perform at 75 mph on our freeways?
I've often heard that the Prius was a very noisy car to ride in, even though it doesn't make any engine noise when coasting at 5-10 mph. Chuck, is this true, and, if so, has Toyota ever addressed this issue, especially with its newer models?
Jenn: You are probably referring to some of the recent suggestions of wind/road noise associated with the Prius v, which came out in 2011. I've driven it and don't think it's an issue. From the outside, the Prius v is so quiet that Toyota is adding noise to help alert blind pedestrians.
I think the price point can appeal to everyone, not just younger people. I'm neither younger nor a first-time buyer and this is the price point that will let me finally buy a hybrid. In fact, my equally older friend who spent $35K on the early Prius only was able to do so because he got a small windfall in the form of a $30K inheritance. And he bought it as his only car, not a second or third car.
If the car companies still think there are lots of people out there with lots of disposable income, perhaps they need to read more of the financial news. You know, that Great Depression thing? The one that pillaged so many of the Boomers' retirement incomes?
I agree with naperlou, the two-year payback period is also a winner.
Great price, yes. But remember, this car is considerably smaller than the Prius, which is not a huge car to begin with. It's 19 inches shorter and weighs 2,500 pounds, which is in itself amazing, considering that it has an electrical and a gas-burning powertrain. When you stand close to it, you realize how small it is.
@Ann: The Prius C is 157" long, compared to 175" for a standard Prius. The Yaris, which is Toyota's subcompact, is 148" long. For comparison, a Chevrolet Aveo hatchback is 159" long, a Mini Cooper is 146" long, a Geo Metro and a Ford Festiva are both 141" long, and a Tata Nano is 122" long.
So the Prius C would probably be considered to be a subcompact, but it's a lot bigger than some of the subcompacts you may be thinking of.
Thanks for the details, Dave. It's still tough to really get the size abstractly, but these numbers help a lot. Looks they are all too small for me, except for the standard Prius, assuming it's the same size as the original my friend has.
Hybrid automobiles are extremely popular, but few individuals can say that the love affair lives on once they check out the sticker price. Toyota thinks that their new take on the Prius - the Prius C hatchback - will keep the fires burning. As reported by reports, the cost of the Prius C will fall under $19,000 before destination fees. Resource for this article: Toyota Prius C hatchback makes hybrids affordable
Good point vivianam, however, even by brining the final net price down, the car itself is much lower than its price point competitors with respect to features. For the same price you can be getting a much nicer car.
What about a new federal safety standard, one that falls between motorcycles and full automobiles? Call it the city-safety standard, where crashworthiness requirements are eased because the car is designed strictly for city use, and limited to speeds of 45mph?
Eased safety requirements will bring cost, complexity, AND weight down, adding to the mpg number.
I'd much rather see the government spend money on a new safety standard instead of hybrid or electric subsidies. A new standard would make it easier to design, build and sell a vehicle without entitlement programs.
I am on my second 2nd generation Prius (the first was totaled in a serious accident) and have never felt I gave up size/convenience/safety for efficiency. In fact, the protection my wife and I had in that accident from the car's design convinced me to buy it again. Of course, my commute is all city driving (roughly 50 mi./day) so I get in the low 50s MPG consistently. The only time it drops below 50 is on the expressway at 75 MPH.
I paid about $25K 4 years ago for it. After 80K miles I've only had to replace the electronics cooling pump (an apparent weak spot in the Prius) with no noticeable degradation in the efficiency of the drive train.
Assuming that Toyota has kept the quality and design at their traditionally high levels (with a notable exceptions dealing with uncontrolled acceleration) this Prius c could be a game changer for the market. As gas prices are possibly going to exceed $4/gal. this year, my first car seems to be looking to be a better and better choice (and its paid off so no monthly car payments!).
Unfortunately we, up here in New England, tend to be ignored when it comes to our expensive energy budgets. With little available sunlight and with heavily forested homesites and hilly terrain our home heating budgets are either satisfied with highly polluting wood fires or expensive oil.
Similarly, no auto makers provide four wheel drive products with anywhere near the fuel economy needed for this region. The choices are gas guzzling SUV's or AWD Subaru's which do better but are still not economical. When will Toyota or others offer an economical AWD hybrid? I'm not going to hold my breath.
There are a lot of Prius's on the road here as we have a lot of environmentally conscious folks in these parts. But you won't see many of them driving their hybrids in stormy winter weather. Toyota's hybrid 4WD offerings start at prices 33% higher than the Prius but with very poor gas mileage. The non hybrid line of 4WD Subaru's do far better but there isn't much more you can squeeze out of their best ICE designs which now sport continuous variable ratio transmissions without gear shifting or energy robbing torque converters.
Borrowing from railroad locomotive technology it should be a no brainer to build a continuous all wheel drive hybrid or all electric vehicle with full time skid and stability control by incorporating direct drive electric motors behind each wheel. Run the ICM engine at its most efficent RPM's all the time when power is required from it to keep the batteries charged and let the electric motor controller do all of the torque assignments as required of the road conditions.
The weight of the additional electic motors could be counterbalanced by the removal of the mechanical transmission. Make it standard technology for all vehicles across a major product line (Subaru for example) and the cost of manufacture will decrease significantly while the vehicle will benefit from improved handling charcteristics during hazardous road conditions.
All-wheel drive comes at a cost in efficiency - you have to carry the weight of the additional transmission parts. Yes, you can avoid the transmission parts if you go for an electric drive train, but then you have to carry the large battery.
The Toyota Prius Hybrid Synergy Drive is a marvelous design, which is very much misunderstood. It is in no way an electric drivetrain. The electric part of the system serves two purposes:
1) as storage for energy harvested during "braking"
2) as a power assist when accellerating (particularly from a dead stop)
The power assist available from the electric side allows for a much smaller gasoline engine than would normally be required for a vehicle of this size. This saves weight, and it allows the engine to be operate closer to its optimal efficiency during a much larger part of driving than it otherwise could.
Since the battery is not used for extended periods of energy supply, it does not need to be large at all; this saves weight and cost compared with an electric or plug-in vehicle.
The major factors of the Prius' great efficiency are:
- light weight body
- light weight engine
- light weight battery
- recovery of kinetic energy from "braking" in city (start/stop) traffic and congested highway conditions
- continuously variable automatic transmission
Most of these factors are also available to designers of small vehicles with conventional drive trains. For an example look to the Hyundai Elantra.
I am impressed that Toyota can bring this system to a vehicle below $20K, and I think this will further cement Toyota's leadership in the "green" car market.
Why should battery weight be that important a factor? if you sacrefice some acceleration performance you can roll back some of the additional energy required to get a larger mass into motion. And if you use regenerative braking, something you can do with great precision with four axle mounted electric motor/generators, the kinetic energy, stored in the vehicle's motion can be converted back to potential energy (literally speaking) in the battery. The greater mass of the bigger battery ultimately means you will be storing more kinetic energy per unit of velocity when in motion.
In the case of the 100% electric drive you are still using the battery mostly as a booster with the ICE providing most of the power except when it is switched off rather than idling at stop lights. The real issue is conversion efficiency and the losses associated with the ICE driven generator and the axle driven electric motors.
You can eliminate all of the mechanical linkages, belts pulley's gears shafts when you use direct drive electric motors. Now if you can increase the efficiency of the "transducers" motors and generator and control circuitry to the point where it equals the savings from the mechanical linkage frictional losses, you'll be on your way.
In place of heavy copper power wiring you increase operating voltage to reduce interconnect/power transmitting losses as solid state controllers become more HV capable.
Think about what you have to do to increase power handling with a mechanical drive. You have to make the gears, belts, bearings and driveshafts bigger and heavier. In an electric system all you need to do is raise the voltage after maybe applying slightly thicker or better quality insulation on the same size supply wiring.
Why should battery weight be that important a factor?
Remember that all losses must be accounted for. With added power required to get extra mass up to speed there will be higher losses in the acceleration phase (motor heat and other electrical inefficiencies), more loss due to increased rolling resistance (this is a direct function of mass), and increased losses during the regen-cycle (heat... etc)... to mention a few.
If this were not true... weight would not be a factor when regen-braking is used no matter the mass comes from... and 1000 lb batteries would solve the range issue just like that.
Fore efficient AWD, look at the latest Subaru. They made a bold move with the Impreza. Instead of using direct injection engine technology to increase hp like everyone does, they made it more efficient. City is around 25 and highway is about 35. That is almost as good as my Yaris!
I am a current owner of a used Camry Hybrid. It cost the same as the non hybrid..used due to market conditions in SO cal at the mie. I have put 22K miles on it. I average 35 with about 31 city and 38 highway mpg. I have rented several camrys of the 4 cyl type of the same body release. series. I have had these in seattle , washington DC, and Detrriot michigan where i ran several tanks on each car in similar driving patterns.
The non hybrid 4 cyl automatics averaged 25 to 28 mpg depending on conditions. This in itself is afavorable to my 96 honda accord wagon whic delivered about the same mpg BUT with a stick and a smaller car and non refomulated fuel which has a siignificantly lower BTU rating.
The differance in cost of a current camry hybrid vs a similarlyconfigured camry is about 3500 HOWEVER the hybrid has several upgrades...a CVT and better GPS sytem and a better stereo which in other cars would sum t 1500 of that delta.
Using the real world numbers on fuel comsumption only with NO consideration for the differance in content....(note the hybrid has SIGNIFICANTLY better performance.)... the pay back at $4 per gallon is...$34 per 1000 mile on FUEL only....there is a reduction in maintenance by reviewing oil condition but i will ignore that. THEREFORE at 3500 price delta the "payback is about 100K miles. HOWEVER the significant perfomance diferance would make the 6 cyl a better comparison NOT for quarter mile but surely for passing. also with the significan content delta which should be talken into account the payback is significanly faster. AS for l;ifecycle costs..record show the batterpacks last about as long as engines...If you run the car that far the replacement is not meaningful.
Our first Prius is a used, compact 2003, 1.5L Prius bought in 2005 for $17,000. The new "Prius c" specifications are close to the NHW11, 2001-03. Both have identical wheelbase, width, and engine displacement. Although the "Prius c" is 265 lbs heavier, the electric motor has gone from 44 to 73 hp improving regenerative energy capture and acceleration. By driving within the optimum NHW11 profile, we consistently get 52 MPG so the predicted 53 MPG is easily achievable.
Several years ago, we bought the midsize, 1.8L Prius and it is our highway and load carry car. I recently towed a 1,000 lb pontoon boat trailer 600 miles and returned with a 700 lb airplane along with the paper work and spare parts. Although the 1.5L Prius can tow the load in town, the 1.8L Prius is the better highway vehicle . . . the same performance 5 mph faster.
The new Prius fills an important nitch, an affordable commuting vehicle very much like the first
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