Friday, February 27, 2009

Third-Generation Prius Gets 50 MPG

The 2010 Prius unveiled at the Detroit auto show was among the most eagerly anticipated debuts at a show where everyone is showcasing fuel-efficient cars, hybrids and electric vehicle prototypes. But the Prius remains the gold standard and a car synonymous with hybrid technology, and Toyota hopes to sell 400,000 of them worldwide next year — a figure that would put the Prius on par with Toyota's best-selling Camry and Corolla.

Although the new Prius looks a lot like the old Prius, 90 percent of its gas-electric drivetrain was redesigned or re-engineered and packaged in a more aerodynamic body. The changes brought a 22 percent increase in power and a 9 percent boost in fuel economy over the current model, which is the most fuel-efficient car sold in America.

"I'm here to tell you the new Prius will achieve an estimated combined 50 miles per gallon," Carter said, citing the official EPA figure that will appear on the window sticker.

The restyled body moves the roof-line peak back 4 inches, creating a more wedgelike shape and increased passenger headroom. Underbody panels, sharp corners and a longer spoiler cut the car's drag coefficient to 0.25, and Carter says it's the most aerodynamic production vehicle available today.

Under the hood, Toyota increased engine displacement from 1.5 liters to 1.8 and bumped the output to 98 horsepower. Coupled with the electric motor, total power rises from 110 horsepower to 134. The increased oomph is enough to shave about half a second off the car's zero to 60 time, which Carter said now stands at 9.5 seconds. Not that anyone buys a Prius for its speed.

One of the coolest features is the rooftop solar panel, which Carter said provides juice to the ventilation system to keep the interior cool when the car is parked. The system keeps fresh air circulating in the vehicle so the A/C doesn't have to work so hard, conserving the battery — still a nickel-metal hydride unit. Carter said the new Prius is the first production car to have an air conditioning compressor powered by the battery instead of an engine drive belt, and the water pump also is electric to cut parasitic drag on the engine and improve fuel efficiency.

A larger and more powerful 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle, four-cylinder engine powers the new Prius. The larger engine helps improve highway mileage. By making more torque, the new engine can run at lower average rpm on the highway. When operating at lower rpm, the new engine uses less fuel. Mileage is especially improved in cold-start conditions and at higher speeds.

The new Prius will offer three alternative driving modes. EV-Drive Mode allows driving on battery power alone at low speeds for about a mile, if conditions permit. There is also a Power Mode, which increases sensitivity to throttle input for a sportier feel, and an Eco Mode, which helps the driver achieve the best mileage.
Better gas mileage, roomier and better performance sounds good to me. No word yet on price, but when you can't produce them as fast as you can sell them, no reason to lower it.

via Wired and Green Car Congress

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