Toyota unveiled the 2017 Prius Prime at the 2016 New York International Auto Show on March 23. The car has a manufacturer-estimated 120 or above MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) and is expected to have the highest MPGe rating of any Plugin Hybrid. It also represents a substantial 26% enhancement over its predecessor, a result of greater battery capacity and an improved hybrid system.
While giving the new-generation Prius models more features, Toyota kept vehicle weight in check by using aluminum for the hood, carbon fiber on the rear hatch and by using high-tensile strength steel in other parts of the structure. In fact, says Toyota, the lightweight carbon fiber rear hatch makes opening and closing almost effortless.
The wind-cheating body and its high-strength/low-weight structure are critical factors in the Prius Prime’s low energy consumption. Its coefficient of drag is expected to be among the lowest for production sedans. Automatic grille shutters help reduce drag by closing when airflow to the radiator is not needed.
The Prius Prime is expected to offer an estimated two times the electric range of the previous model 22 miles – meeting the daily commuter distance of over half of U.S. drivers, and drive at speeds up to 84 mph without leaving EV mode. The car also is 2.4 inches longer, 0.6 inches wider and about an inch lower than its predecessor. The growth boosts cargo room over its predecessor and gives the Prius Prime a road-hugging stance.
Both the standard Prius hybrid and the Prius Prime are powered by Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain, which combines the output of the gasoline engine and electric motor through a planetarytype continuously variable transmission. The biggest difference is that the Prius Prime can be plugged in at home to recharge its larger 8.8-kWh battery pack.
In Hybrid mode, the Prius Prime can run on the gasoline engine or electric motor alone or a combination of both. Even when not running in EV mode, the Prius Prime will automatically rely more on its electric capability in situations where it is more efficient than running the gasoline engine, especially in urban and suburban driving and during shorter trips.
The Prius Prime will also feature a Toyota-first dual motor generator drive system, using both the electric motor and the generator for drive force, helping to boost acceleration performance. Regenerative braking recaptures electrical energy under deceleration and braking and stores it in the battery, which helps to reduce fuel consumption.
Even better, there’s no special equipment for home charging. Just use the supplied cord and the Prius Prime takes approximately 5.5 hours using a standard household outlet. Charging takes less than half the time with a 240V source.
The 2017 Prius Prime will begin arriving in Toyota showrooms in late fall.