2016 Toyota Prius gets battery choices with all-wheel drive proposed

Toyota hopes that offering a choice of battery packs in the next-generation Prius will help arrest falling sales of the popular hybrid and improve fuel economy.

The new car, due to enter production late next year, will be available with either a low-cost nickel-metal hydride battery or a lighter, more versatile lithium-ion unit, according to Automotive News, which spoke to Koei Saga.

Saga is the senior managing officer in charge of powertrain development for the 2016 Toyota Prius, and hinted that the new liftback may also arrive with all-wheel drive as an option.

“I think we will possibly do it,” he says. Such a move would surely be met with approval by the many fuel-conscious Americans living in regions less placid that the Prius’ spiritual home of California.

Toyota is aiming for a combined fuel economy of 55mpg for the new car – a figure that would again confirm the Prius as the default choice for many drivers. A lighter lithium-ion battery pack will help it achieve that aim, although four-wheel drive traditionally adds weight to a car, which would be to the detriment of efficiency.

Saga didn’t elaborate on the 2016 Toyota Prius’ layout, although it’s possible that Toyota could avoid this weight penalty with clever use of the Prius’ electric motor.

The lighter, condensed hybrid system designed for the new Prius will find its way into a large number of Toyota models spanning differing segments, while the Prius itself will feature a new, highly aerodynamic design.

Production was originally scheduled for the first half of 2015, although the battle to achieve a 10 percent increase in fuel economy over the current car’s combined 50mpg is taking Toyota’s engineers longer to win than expected.