At the 2016 New York International Auto Show, Toyota unveiled its 2017 Prius Prime – an electric vehicle which features a carbon fiber composite rear hatch that the company used to keep the vehicle’s weight “in check.” According to Toyota, since this model uses a larger and heavier battery then previous models, engineers were looking for ways to offset the added weight. The carbon fiber rear hatch reduced the overall weight of the vehicle by about eight pounds.
Arguably the most pressing issue in the automotive sector of the composites industry is how to reduce vehicle weight to meet increasingly demanding fuel economy standards. As Composites Manufacturing reported in September, deadlines are looming for CAFE fuel efficiency standards in the U.S. (54.5 mpg fleet average by 2025) and also for Europe’s required reductions in CO2 emissions (40 percent decrease for fleets from 2007 to 2021). This has led to a rise in electrified vehicles that incorporate lightweight materials, such as CFRP.
For its part, the weight Toyota saves on the Prius’ hatch is part of what gives the new vehicle a “manufacturer-estimated 120 or above MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent), [which] is expected to be the highest MPGe rating of any Plug-in Hybrid.” That number represents a 26-percent improvement over the vehicle’s predecessor.
The Prius Prime is expected to offer 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 (electric vehicle) mode. The new-generation Prius Prime is also 2.4 inches longer, 0.6 inches wider and about an inch lower than its predecessor.
The vehicle will feature a Toyota-first dual motor generator drive system, using both the electric motor and the generator for drive force, which will help boost acceleration. The Prius uses “regenerative braking,” which recaptures electrical energy during deceleration and braking, and stores it in the battery, which helps lower fuel consumption.
The car will begin arriving in Toyota showrooms in late fall, and will be available in all 50 states.