Hybrid to offer optional lithium ion battery

Toyota ponders awd for next-gen Prius

Hybrid to offer optional lithium ion battery

The new Prius will come with two battery choices, a low-cost nickel-metal hydride unit or a lithium ion pack.
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TOYOTA CITY, Japan -- The next generation of the Toyota Prius, the world's best-selling hybrid, will offer a lithium ion battery and possibly an all-wheel-drive option.

New details emerged as Toyota delayed the start of production from next spring until December 2015 to make sure it nails the crucial launch of what has become its flagship vehicle.

The fourth-generation Prius will come with two battery choices, a low-cost nickel-metal hydride unit or a lithium ion pack, Koei Saga, senior managing officer in charge of powertrain development, said in a July 7 interview at Toyota's world headquarters.

The Prius also may get awd in addition to its current front-wheel-drive layout.

Said Saga: "I think we will possibly do it."

Saga provided no further details about the batteries or layout. But Toyota engineers want the re-engineered hybrid drivetrain, which will debut in the next Prius, to be used across a wider variety of vehicle configurations and body types.

The new hybrid system is expected to be smaller, lighter and more efficient. Saga provided no specifics.

"In case of large-size [vehicles], we will add unprecedented new concepts," he said.

The choice of two batteries could possibly deliver a low-cost version riding on the tried-and-true nickel-metal hydride technology that Toyota has used since it launched the Prius in 1997. And for those wanting longer electric-only driving range, a larger-capacity lithium ion pack could be offered as an upper trim model with a higher price.

"The batteries will be renewed. Everything will be revised. And I think we will come up with a fuel economy that will surprise everyone," Saga said, without giving figures.

The new Prius also will debut the company's new modular vehicle architecture -- dubbed Toyota New Global Architecture -- that aims to boost the number of parts shared among vehicles to improve quality and reduce costs.

You can reach Hans Greimel at hgreimel@crain.com. -- Follow Hans on Twitter

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