Remember Toyota’s plans to create a new Prius brand? Looks like they are moving in that direction.
The first step we will likely see is the introduction of a compact minivan (MPV) to the existing Prius cars – the Prius Alpha MPV.
The story was first reported by MotorTrend, based on an article in a Japanese publication. The magazine printed a photo of a minivan with a Prius front-end – we are reproducing it for you here. But we are not sure whether this really is a photo of the Toyota Prius Alpha.
In the photo below, you can see a concept Prius hybrid minivan.
The hybrid Toyota Prius Alpha MPV is essentially a small MPV built on the Prius platform. The Alpha will be the first model in this range to use lithium-ion batteries. This would mean that the batteries weigh one-third of the nickel-metal hydride combination that is currently being used in the Prius. That would seriously improve the power-to-weight ratio of the Prius Lpha MPV.
The new MPV would use the existing platform of the Prius sedan, with an additional third row of seating in the rear. The length of the vehicle will be extended by approximately a foot (300mm), and the wheelbase is to be extended by an additional 20mm.
The Toyota Prius Alpha MPV uses the 8.1 Atkinson-cycle petrol engine as in the current hybrid Prius. The hybrid system has a petrol engine will produce 98 bhp and an electric motor that produces the equivalent of 81 bhp, with a total combined output at 135 hp. However, due to the additional weight and size, it is unlikely that the Prius sedan’s fuel economy will remain the same.
According to rumours, another lower-priced version is also planned. In this Prius Alpha MPV, there would be seating for five, and nickel-hydride batteries would be used which would help in bringing the price down. There is also word that this version may be available at much cheaper prices than the other seven-seater MPVs in the market.
The hybrid minivan from Toyota seems to be all set to make an appearance in March 2011, so it will probably debut at the Geneva Motor Show 2011 or alternatively at the New York auto Show 2011. Currently, the Toyota Prius range is considered to be the leader in fuel efficiency for petrol cars in the US, and one of the least polluting. It was the first hybrid car to be mass produced.