Tag Archive | "Prius"

Toyota Increase Model Range

There once was a time when buyers of new cars felt they could trust Toyota, but in the last three years or so they have experienced a mighty fall from grace. Problems with accelerator and brake pedals, amongst other things, seriously damaged the company’s reputation.

In July 2012, the Japanese company sold 5700 new cars in the UK. That’s an impressive twenty five per cent up on the same period last year, which appears to indicate that motorists have, by and large, forgiven them their transgressions and headed back to the showrooms. These improved figures are better than for the industry as a whole, suggesting that Toyota has re-established its reputation.

The bad news for Toyota is that, just in time for the summer release of no less than four new models, they now have a problem with nearly 800,000 RAV4 and Lexus models. It seems that lock nuts on the rear tie-rods were not tightened properly at assembly and this has allowed rust to develop, causing corrosion and possible failure of the part. It is suggested that this could cause handling problems. Toyota are sorting it out.

This is a shame as the company has started delivering the new Prius+ and Prius Plug-in models (of which more elsewhere on Motor Blogger) and the new Yaris Hybrid. This is a first for Toyota as the new Yaris is Europe’s first full hybrid supermini. The beauty of this car is that the dimensions and space of the original car have not been compromised by the new power train and batteries.

The jewel in the crown of these latest introductions has got be to be the GT86 (previously introduced on these pages) a brilliant back-to-basics sports car that subsequent reviews have deemed to be a triumph. It’s powered by a 2.0L Boxer engine, has good old fashioned rear-wheel drive and sensible wheels which all adds up to a package that’s about good old fashioned driving pleasure rather than brute power.

Customers are returning to Toyota and strong demand for a mix of the 17 model range is being seen in the showrooms. Toyota should have learned their lesson about build quality from the issues of the last few years.

The latest tie-rod problem only apparently affects RAV4 models built between 2006 and 2010 (accounting for the bulk of the recall) and some 18000 Lexus 250h vehicles from 2010 at a time when the other difficulties occurred, so hopefully things are back to where they should be and motorists can buy a Toyota with confidence.

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New Plug-in Updates The Prius Philosophy

The new Toyota Prius Plug-in is the latest evolution of the company’s popular hybrid range and sets a new benchmark for low-emission technology. Toyota claim that this new car – available to order now and in the showrooms from July – is capable of 108.6mpg whilst breathing out a health enhancing 59g/km of CO² . In full EV mode, the tailpipe emissions are zero.

The difference between this car and its older sibling is that it relies on lithium-ion batteries rather than the usual Toyota nickel-metal hydride units currently fitted to the Auris and standard Prius. Lithium-ion batteries can carry more energy and recharge to full in just 90 minutes. The downside, inevitably, is that the new units are heavier and more expensive to produce so it’s likely that this new iteration of the popular hybrid will be more expensive.

Although the Lithium-ion batteries add an extra 130kg to this already hefty car, the electric only range is extended from 2 miles to a much more useable 12.5 and the top speed in EV mode is now a creditable 62mph. Around the town the car should mostly be all electric, only choosing to rouse the sleeping engine if the throttle is floored. Otherwise the car has the same mechanicals as the standard Prius. There will be, for now, a single specification which will include high-tech features like a heads-up display, the Touch-and-Go multimedia centre, voice recognition and the more usual Bluetooth and satellite navigation options, amongst a welcome list of others. The car has economical 15” alloys and a selection of four exterior colours is offered. The main expense for additional options is the choice of black leather upholstery at £1500. How many people will go for that, given the car’s ethos?

The range anxiety problem suffered by fully electric cars can be safely ignored here because the Plug-in will switch seamlessly to hybrid mode automatically if the electric charge is drained. Recharging is both simple and fast using a power point linked to a standard domestic supply or an on-street charging point. The car comes with the charging kit in the price, including five metres of cabling that can be stored beneath the boot floor. The price is expected to be an eye-watering £32,895 but the government will refund £5000 once you’ve purchased. No doubt over time the price of these cars will come down as economies of scale come into action and the technology becomes ever more efficient. In the meantime, if you’re serious about doing your bit to save the planet you could do worse than invest in a Prius Plug-in.

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Electric Evolution

The general feeling seems to be that motorists want a revolution, but not yet. As you’ve heard often enough before, the principal gripe is the issue of range. Electric cars simply can’t go far enough and even if they did there’s not, as yet, anywhere to charge them away from home. Yet things have to change. Even the most hardened petrol head is beginning to understand that there is an unstoppable driving force behind the evolution of electric vehicles.

In a recent American report it is reckoned that the cost of lithium-ion batteries will fall by about a third in the next four to five years as battery production technology improves, lithium supplies increase and battery packs are sold in greater volume. The report states that “ the market for Li-ion batteries will be driven primarily by plug-in hybrids. Battery electric vehicles require much larger packs than hybrids.”

It is the cost of the fuel cells that governs the industry’s current anomaly. Lithium-ion batteries present a classic ‘what comes first’ scenario. Battery costs need to decrease in order to yield a lower price on the forecourt to encourage the punters. Conversely, the power packs need to be produced in high volumes in order to get costs to fall.

Regardless, the demand for electric drive cars, especially amongst city dwellers, is expected to rise over the coming years; especially as the cost of conventional fuels continues to rise and car makers offer a greater range. The report estimates that the global sales of  plug-ins will rise to a figure in excess of 5 million by 2017.

Lithium is a mineral, the 31st most abundant element on Earth and is the lightest metal. Most of it is found in South America which has more than half of the world’s deposits. It can also be obtained from sea water in same quantities. Herein lies the problem. No car can be considered green. Powering a vehicle on a daily basis is always going to use some sort of resource. We stop extracting oil and start extracting lithium instead. When we’ve got all the lithium, then what? The answer is perhaps not to rush at any one power source but take time to investigate everything that is available to us. Right now the best thing to do is compromise. That is what ‘greener’ should be about. The Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive and other systems seem the best way forward right now. One million Toyota Prius owners can’t be wrong.

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Coming Soon – Toyota Prius+ Seven Seat Hybrid

There’s no doubt that the Toyota Prius came in for some stick when it was first announced. True petrolheads were aghast at this electric monstrosity when it first went on sale in Japan in 1997 and was finally unleashed on the world in 2001. It heralded, the fuel-sniffers said, the end of motoring as we know it. Well, it hasn’t quite worked out like that and most drivers today accept and, for the most part welcome, the new technology.

Toyota, whilst continuing to satisfy the demands of hairy chested sporting drivers with the brilliant GT86, have continued to expand their hybrid technology with the impending summer launch of the Prius+, a fully hybrid seven-seat MPV. The ground-breaking new model, which combines traditional people carrier practicality with ultra-efficient performance, is also the first mainstream Toyota hybrid to use a lighter and more compact lithium-ion battery pack.

It retains the exceptional efficiency of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive power train. Despite the battery pack, the car is light and has exceptional aero-dynamic qualities. In T4 trim the car breaks the 100g/km barrier thus being eligible, currently, for zero rated road tax and congestion charge exemption. Official consumption figure is 68.9 for the T4 and only slightly less for the T Spirit version which itself only just tips over the 100g/km target.

In a clever move, the company have installed the slim battery pack within the centre consul thus avoiding any intrusion on rear passenger and boot space. Genius. All five rear seats fold, allowing for various load-carrying combinations. The two equipment grades offer all the usual options; auto aircon, panoramic roof, rear view cameras, Bluetooth, leather and the like and there’ll be a choice of seven exterior colours.

The family friendly MPV, based on it’s smaller sibling, was very well received at the Geneva Motor Show. The headline feature inside the Prius is Toyota’s new Touch & Go Plus and Touch Pro navigation systems. Featuring real-time traffic updates and the ability to use Google’s Local Search feature, it will be interesting to see how they manage to bring what has been a successful Smartphone technology to work in a car.

For the greener among you, there are new planet-saving features including a monthly fuel consumption record storing the previous five months of economy data. The ability to calculate how much is being saved on fuel costs might help justify why you bought a hybrid in the first place. You can order now and deliveries will start around July 9th from a very creditable £26,195.

Fear not petrolheads; motoring hasn’t died, it’s just grown up.

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