Toyota's original Prius wasn't the first gasoline-electric model ever designed, but it's the car that deserves credit for bringing the technology to the masses. The next Prius will be just as pioneering, according to a report, because it will be offered with a hydrogen-electric system.
Japanese magazine Best Car learned from unnamed sources that the fifth-generation Prius will join Toyota's hydrogen offensive. While the Mirai is equipped with a fuel cell that uses hydrogen to produce the electricity needed to spin the wheels, the next Prius will reportedly gain a hydrogen-burning engine very similar to the three-cylinder unit that Toyota built for its experimental Corolla race car earlier in 2021. It will work jointly with the next evolution of Toyota's hybrid system, which consists of a battery pack, a motor, and the required electronics.
Lapping a track in a prototype is relatively easy; building a car that thousands of motorists can reliably use daily, in a variety of conditions, is much more difficult. That's why the hydrogen-electric Prius won't arrive until 2025, according to the same source. Whether it will be sold in the United States — where the hydrogen infrastructure is still developing at best — remains to be seen. Japan may be its largest market.
Hydrogen will help the Prius stand out in the Toyota range once again. When it made its debut, the technology it offered was mind-blowingly unique. Fast forward 24 years later, and there are 10 hybrids in the Toyota line-up, many which use the same basic system as the Prius.
Not every version of the next Prius will ride the hydrogen train. The model is allegedly scheduled to arrive in December 2022 (meaning it will likely be branded a 2023 model in America) with a more conventional gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain built around a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. The plug-in hybrid Prime will make a comeback as well, likely with powertrain improvements that increase its electric range.
Toyota hasn't commented on the report, though it has repeatedly stressed that it's committed to democratizing hydrogen technology, and it hasn't said a word about the fifth-generation Prius. If the rumor is true, we'll soon find out more about the hybrid poster child's next move.
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