In August Torque News reported on Toyota’s plans to create and all-new Prius. This was not a speculation story. Rather, Toyota’s managing officer, Satoshi Osigo held a formal press conference to discuss his vision of hybrids. At the time the most difficult goals he outlined were to continue to increase the Prius’ fuel efficiency by 10% as it has in past redesigns. Also, he shared his vision that fully a third of cars would be hybrids. However, in a little noticed comment to Automotive News, Toyota revealed that it has a much harder goal in mind. It wants the next Prius to have an emotional impact on its drivers.
Having driven the Prius family of cars, I can tell you I do already get an emotional response. That response I get is called it annoyance. I get annoyed that they handle sloppily, are slow as molasses, and I am not that fond of the brakes. Other than that I love the car. Kidding aside, the design chief at Toyota, Simon Humphries, told Automotive News "The biggest challenge is that quite simply, when Prius was first initiated, there was only Prius as a hybrid. That was enough to be different. At the moment, we've got a hybrid in virtually everything. I hope that the next-generation Prius is an emotional hybrid car."
This concept of building an emotional or compelling green car is all the rage. Elon Musk clarified that Tesla Motors’ goal is a mass-market, compelling EV. Honda tried a few years ago to inject some excitement in a mass-market hybrid, the CRZ. It has failed miserably. These are the world’s top green car manufacturers and they are all seeking the same objective; An “affordable” green car that the majority of drivers don’t hate to drive.
To save as much fuel as possible current cars have to carry heavy batteries. They also have to use as little energy as possible while accelerating. Hence, the result is sloppy handling and glacial forward progress. Nobody makes an affordable, compelling, or emotional 50 mpg car. Toyota has joined Tesla in seeking that goal. Game on.