Toyota Australia says that it has stuck with the proven and tested nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) battery for the fourth-generation Prius instead of switching to the lithium-ion system available in some other markets, due to the former's reliability as well as lower cost.
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Speaking to CarAdvice at the launch of the new Toyota Prius in Sydney today, Tony Cramb, executive director sales and marketing of Toyota Australia, said that having analysed the requirements of the Australian market, the decision was made to stuck with Ni-MH batteries.

“There are other markets that have the lithium [battery packs]," Cramb said

“But we have decided to stay with the nickel hydride because it's proven and tested and, as you can see, it’s a reduced battery [size], fits under the back seat but gives us all the benefits [same energy as previous model].

"We have had no issues with it and for this model we’ve decided to stay with it.”

2016 Toyota Prius i-Tech

The locally-sold Toyota Prius has never made use of higher-energy capacity lithium-ion batteries, which Toyota offers on top-spec Prius models in some overseas markets.

The new battery carries the same level of energy as before but is now 10 per cent smaller and is capable of absorbing 28 per cent more energy in the same amount of time as the previous car, allowing for faster charging while on the go.

With a starting price of $32,490, the new Prius is now $2500 more than the car it replaces (and substantially better equipped), but had the decision been made to go with a Lithium system, the price would’ve increased even further.

Cramb says it's true that the decision to stick with Ni-MH was partially motivated by cost. A significant consideration factor that he hopes will eventually also affect the uptake of lithium batteries.

“The battery price has come down and obviously with advances in battery technology around the world you see the investment that other companies are making in battery technology. More and more, it will get cheaper and cheaper over time, I am sure.

"One day, lithium will be the future but for the time being, nickel hydride is the most appropriate for here in Australia."

2016 Toyota Prius i-Tech

Asked why, then, the larger and older Toyota Prius V has used the newer batteries, Toyota’s public relations manager, Stephen Coughlan, added that volume constraints are an issue with the core Prius.

“Global volume for the core models Prius that we are launching today is substantially more than the Prius V, so volume capacity allowed us to roll that out as a standard [lithium] specification globally on that model. But there are volume constraints on a model that is in such demand particularly in US, Europe and Japan.”

Hybrid and electric models from other manufacturers largely make use of lithium-ion batteries, with the Prius remaining one of the few that has stuck with Ni-MH systems.