Not even a powerful earthquake as the one that hit Japan a couple of months ago could stop the release of the “Prius Alpha” hybrid minivan from Toyota. The car is something new for the company because i’s the first hybrid to have a lithium-ion rechargeable battery as the main battery and i’s somewhat of a success for the green industry already, since Toyota chose fuel efficiency over size.
The US market, for example, showed a clear tendency towards a 535L trunk for a two-seat vehicle and the Europeans liked tall minivans. Instead, the company went for a lengthier minivan in an effort to keep the fuel efficiency at 31.0 km/L, at least for the Japanese market.
Regardless of its fuel efficiency, buyers get to choose from a seven-seat and a five-seat model. Both look pretty much the same as the Prius, only the parts used in their construction differ.
The seven-seat model offers buyers a hybrid system with the Li-ion battery tucked inside the center console, between the driver and the passenger seat, just to make room for the line of three seats behind. This model’s mass is 1,480 kg, only 30 kg more than its five-seat peer – the difference is in the battery’s relative lightness.
For €2.35 million (or about $29,066), the five-seat model comes with a nickel-metal-hydride (Ni-MH) rechargeable battery, placed under the trunk room’s floor, in the same place as within the classic Prius. The Prius Alpha is 4,615 mm long and 1,575 mm tall, bigger than the original Prius.
New options from Toyota include a polycarbonate panoramic roof for €105,000 (but 40% less dense than the regular glass one) and a “sprung mass vibration control system” to reduce the roll and pitch effect of the motor. It remains to be seen if Toyota can reach its selling target of 3,000 units per month.