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Toyota execs promise lighter hybrid tech, Li-ion batteries in 2015 Prius

Toyota executives have shed light on the fourth-generation Prius, which promises to benefit from a smaller, lighter and less-expensive hybrid system. Additional details reported by Automotive News suggest the company may finally make a switch to lithium-ion batteries, an upgrade from the nickel-metal hydride cells in the current Prius.

Early hints already pointed to improvements in the hybrid system, though the latest information confirms marginal enhancements rather than giant leaps in performance. The new engine is said to reach a thermal efficiency of 40 percent, in contrast to the 38.5-percent efficiency achieved by the current Prius.

Hideki Iba, general manager of Toyota’s battery research division, cautions that lithium-ion cells may not make it to the entry-level Prius for 2015, due to cost considerations. Offering superior power density at a higher price, lithium-ion batteries may arrive first as an upgrade option.

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