Love it or hate it, the Toyota Prius has become an icon. For environmentalists, it represents the future of green motoring, for car enthusiasts, it's nothing more than a fad for a generation feeling guilty for its mistakes.
Toyota was far ahead of the game when the Prius first came out in 1997, ten years on, the rest of the world has caught up. Much like a "healthy choice" menu at fast food stores, Hybrids have become a must for manufacturers. Even if they sell dismal numbers, the image and publicity alone is worth the effort.
Even so, all is not well in the world of Hybrid sales. Sales of the Prius have slowed down and Toyota has been working hard to stay ahead of the game. The next generation Hybrids are set to use a plug-in technology, so that you can simply plug them into your household electricity socket overnight. The other step ahead, is the use of Lithium-ion batteries.
Toyota has been trialling both technologies in the last few years, however the Wall Street Journal has today published a report noting a delay for the next generation Prius. Why? Because Toyota is concerned over the safety of Lithium-ion batteries.
By using Lithium-ion batteries, the next generation Prius can cram more electricity into the same space without having any affect on the car's weight. The current Toyota Prius uses nickel-metal-hydride batteries which provide a fuel efficiency of around 4-litres /100kms, by using new lithium-ion batteries the car can expect fuel economy figures of less than 3 litres /100km.
The delay will push the new generation Prius back by a year to around 2010 giving the rest of the market even more time to play catch-up. Whatever the outcome, it seems that Hybrid vehicles are here to stay.
Read the entire Wall Street Journal article here.