2009 Toyota Prius Revealed

Toyota Prius 2009 model year  (image credits - Ron Lieberson, Popular Mechanics)

So, the word (and the picture that’s worth a thousand more words) got out on the new ’09 Toyota Prius. Kudos to folks at Popular Mechanics for publishing their spy report in the March 2007 issue of the magazine. There are scarce details about the next-gen Prius yet but here is what’s known so far:


#1 It’s expected to get a new 1.8L engine and better fuel economy at the same time. Sounds like an oxymoron to me though. You’d think larger engine means more fuel consumption but we’ll see.
#2 The car is going to become 1inch wider and 1 inch shorter. I think I like that. Current model looks a bit too narrow. Is it just me or you guys also think of it as not being terribly stable on the road, especially if loaded heavily as I had a chance to experience today myself. I think it has to do with the body being rather high and narrow. Even though heavy batteries on the bottom surely add stability to the current model already, and think the new Prius will benefit at least aesthetically from becoming a bit wider.
#3 The 80MPG figure announced by PM seems to be totally taken off a wall. I think that the author was participating in some earlier discussions about diesel hybrid before where the 80MPG figure was getting tossed around a lot and that stuck. Again, better fuel economy with larger engine seems rather unobtainable, but we’ll see what future hold. Maybe the ’09 Prius is really going top be diesel?
#4 The solar panels on the roof seems a bit looney an idea. I hope Toyota drops that. If they ever actually considered that of course. I can imagine that good panels the size of the roof will cost $2000-$3000, will be rather brittle and heavy and might only add maybe 300W if (big if!) the car is parked on scorching Sun. I don’t know about you but I always instinctively park in the shadow if it’s available, so the solar panels will be of little use to me. In any case, what good are the solar panels if you are parked in a garage, anyways?
So, all in all, I think the new design looks promising. The only issue is to see what the new engine is going to do to the fuel economy figures that are already invariably lower than what’s advertised. The weird 80MPG and ‘solar panels on the roof’ details thrown into the spy report simply show that not much is known about the actual production vehicle at this point. We’ll be posting more here as more details become available.



35 Responses to “2009 Toyota Prius Revealed”

  1. TXatheist Says:

    I hope they don’t come out with low profile performance tires as standard. I had them on my Maxima and really didn’t need them or the short life span, nor the price when replacement time comes.

  2. info Says:

    I have a feeling the low profile tires were pictured just to make it look a bit sexier. Well, unless of course they’ve found out that there is any fuel economy benefit. As I said here before only sketchy details about 2009 Prius are available and lots of them are just speculations, I presume.

    In any case, I had low profile tires on my Mazda 3S and they were quite OK but I got rid of the car before they tires were up for replacement. One thing is for sure: this time of the year with freezing/thawing cycle going on and those nasty potholes I wouldn’t really want to drive around in a car with low profile tires.

  3. Adem Says:

    With a slightly bigger engine it might help in economy by making it easier for the driver to accelerate.

    My uncle has a 4cyl Ford Escape and the engine is too small for the vehicle. He is constantly mashing the pedal just to get it going. Toyota might be thinking the same thing.

  4. Vanyel Says:

    That’s what the electric motor is for. I have the Escape Hybrid, which has a 4cyl ICE, and it has plenty of power, and good gas mileage too: 26 mile average over 38,000 miles. I get 30+ if I stay at the speed limit on a warm dry day.

    Mind you, getting good mileage (for the class of vehicle) is the *only* thing I like about the Escape, but at least it does that well.

  5. John Says:

    I have a V6 Mazda Tribute (Escape twin) and had a V6 Escape, and just about the only thing I didn’t like about them is the mileage. The interior is dated, but they’re pretty functional vehicles and a nice size. I considered the Escape hybrid but the price differential was too high at the time and the I4 is too noisy/coarse from what I heard. The 09 Prius looks promising if the price is right.

  6. sean Says:

    FYI: The solar panels are not only in use while the car is parked… The panels would generate power while you also drive on a sunny day. Why does the author think the solar panels work while parked?

    I hope they do include a solar roof. It only makes sense.

  7. info Says:

    Sean, about the panels:

    Thinking about it: the size of the roof may only allow space for 300W worth of solar power, if even that. On the other hand: when the electrical motor is engaged it draws up to 21 kW (the battery cannot supply more even though the motor is capable of 50kW). So, the solar panel output is just a tiny little speck of what’s needed to actually propel the car. The point I’m trying to make is that in order to drive 10 minutes on the energy collected from the solar battery you actually need to be collecting it for 12 hours.

    Add to this the fact that the solar panels are rather heavy (especially if ruggedized for automotive application), brittle and require cleaning to operate at their full potential. Besides, you actually need them perpendicular to the Sun light rays, and the roof of a car is flat. So, basically, the panels will just be an expensive ballast on the car.

    What would make much more sense is if they make it a plug-in car that you can plug Prius into a solar panel of a good size and properly positioned to catch the Sun efficiently while the car is not in use.

  8. Pete Says:

    For all you solar skeptics, take a look at thin film solar. It doesn’t use silicone, so it’s vastly cheaper to produce. And they’re more durable, lighter, and easier to wrap around the curves of a car.

    True, they’re even less efficient than the glass type. But by 2009 they’ll probably be vastly superior to even the best glass panels of today.

    As for the angle, anyone south of the Mason Dixon knows that during the summer the sun can get almost directly overhead in a good part of the populated world.

  9. info Says:

    Hi Pete,

    There is no arguing about the fact that photovoltaic panels will become lighter, more flexible and more affordable. However, I simply don’t see how you can harvest enough energy from the area that’s available on the car’s opaque surfaces to justify added weight, cost, wiring and charging controller.

    Actually, I think you will easily use up all the energy you’ve harvested by running AC to cool the car’s interior down to a bearable level after it’s been parked on scorching sun all day.

  10. Naughtalie Says:

    The reason that Toyota is trailblazing in the automotive industry is because they are constantly “moving forward”. It’s normal to find that a larger engine means greater fuel economy from year to year in Toyota-land. Several of Toyota’s newest models introduce a larger engine with the same or increased fuel economy as the prior. Look at the newly re-designed Highlander, which is 400-lbs. heavier, 3-inches longer and wider, and has a 3-inch wider wheelbase than its predecessor. The gas model’s engine increased from a 3.3L V6 with an EPA rating of 18/24 to a 3.5L V6 with a (2007) EPA rating of 19/25. (17/23 by the new 2008 standards)
    The 2007 Highlander HYBRID featured a 24-valve 3.3L V6 that got better gas mileage(32/27)AND performance than Ford’s 4-cylinder hybrid on a larger body! (Not to mention that the combined torque from the engine & motor allows it to smoke almost any V6 off the line.) This same Hybrid Synergy Drive system will be carried over to the new Highlander Hybrid, which is not yet released.
    The “secret” to Toyota’s engines is dual-variable-valve-timing (a technology only found outside of Toyota/Lexus on BMW 7-series and Mercedes 500′s)Their engines “breathe” way more efficiently. That’s how a Tundra can tow 10,800 lbs. and still get 20 MPG highway.

    As for the Prius, do not believe any “spy shots” until the actual car is released. If you looked around two months ago, you would have seen lots of “spy shots” of 2008 models that were not even close to what they ended up being like… Rest assured that when Toyota DOES re-design the Prius, it will be faster, safer, cooler, and more fuel effiecient than its big brother… Moving Forward :)

  11. Hybrid Car - More Fun with Less Gas » 2008 Prius - what’s new? Says:

    [...] 2008 Prius looks like a continuation of the same great theme but I am saving some money for the 2009 model that promises some arguably radical new [...]

  12. Spy Shot of 2009 Prius - PriusChat Forums Says:

    [...] may look like. 2009 Toyota Prius: Spy Report 2009 Toyota Prius: Spy Report – Popular Mechanics Hybrid Car – More Fun with Less Gas 2009 Toyota Prius Revealed Last edited by TummyMan : Today at 09:39 [...]

  13. Jon the Chief Says:

    The moron in this case of oxymoron is the the writer who’s knowledge of engineering seem to be set in the stone age.

    Variable valve timing seems to have passed him by, variable valve timing gives variable displacement.

    Google Atkinson engine and the Toyota development of same, it is not a difficult read.

  14. glen Says:

    Now that the 2009 Corolla has been revealed, it makes sense that the 2009 Prius will follow. Last generation Corolla/Prius featured the same chasis, so it may again. Also heard about rumors of vehicle being a plug in. That would be great. Expect to see reveal at the Tokyo Auto Show.

  15. Phil Bickel Says:

    I saw where a Hybrid Escape owner said the only thing he liked about his vehicle was the gas mileage.

    That is sad. What I like best about my two Priuses, is that they are greeat cars, that just happen to get 50+ miles per gallon.

    When the new one that gets 80+ comes out, i will definitely buy one using the great resale value of my current Prius as a downpayment.

    What is there not like!

  16. Phil Bickel Says:

    The 2004-2008 Prius is built on the Avensis chasis with a 106 inch midsize wheel base, the Corolla is a smaller car with a 102 inch wheel base.

  17. info Says:

    I absolutely agree with you, Phil. I do sometimes feel people look down on my car and think I have to put up with it only because I’m so cheap I don’t buy as much gas as they have to.
    But I do like everything about the Prius, I spend A LOT of time in it, took it down to Florida twice now for a two thousand mile round-trip, put 46,000 miles on it in just about a year and not a single time had a problem with it. I like it all the way down to the MP3 player and a second power outlet in the arm rest console.
    It is a nice looking well-designed car that would have deserved some loyal following even if it was not for the fuel economy.

  18. Joseph Says:

    I must say I have been very happy with my 2005 Prius. Figured I have saved about $1,800. in gas cost so far. But I just plain love the car and it’s ability to haul stuff about town. Don’t understand what holds people back from jumping into this new efficent technology. Never figured I would have a car getting 50 mpg as I did on a 2,200 mile trip down and up the West coast. Recently attended the local 2008 Auto Show, went out got into my 2005 Prius and told my wife it was the first time I ever left an auto show and was very satisfied with my current vehicle.

  19. info Says:

    That is exactly how I felt leaving 2008 Philadelphia Auto Show, thank you Joseph.

  20. Scott Says:

    Wish I could get more info on the 2009 Prius. My wife’s ’05 is a great car, good on road trips and comfortable, holds a lot of stuff. My ’95 Camry has 188,000 miles on it and I’m nursing it along until the 09 Prius comes out, hopefully with the LiOn extended range battery, whether plugin or not. The web doesn’t seem to have any useful news regarding the 09 Prius and it’s not on Toyota’s website yet. Can anyone point me to anything authoritative? Thanks.

  21. E Says:

    If it is plug in, (which i have heard) then the first 100km’s or so will be run on the battery, and 80MPG is totaly possible. If you were to simply plug your car in every night (like some do in the winter) then most people could do their daily commute without gas at all!
    Has anyone heard of any other plug in’s avaliable yet?

  22. Lee Says:

    The author is obviously unfamiliar with thin-film solar, which is thin and pliable. A controller for a panel the size of the roof would weigh no more than a car stereo (remember it’s not converting DC-AC, all solar panels are DC which matches nicely with a car’s electrical system) No, the panel won’t give enough power to propel the car, it will simply keep the batteries topped off. (which is good for the batteries,by the way) Anything which reduces the number of charge/discharge cycles will lengthen battery life. I just wish these new car “tech reports” were written by people who actually were technologically knowledgeable.

  23. Brent Says:

    I purchased a 2005 prius for my business. We were using a full size truck before for most of our job measures and commuting at approx 15mpg. Since we bought the prius we have put about 140,000 miles on it without any mechanical issues, just oil changes and tires. We figure when you add up the fuel savings, tires and maintenance the prius has already more than paid for itself.

    If you drive alot of miles why wouldn’t you buy a fuel efficient car. It is essentially free after 3 years of use, and you still have an asset with a decent resale value

  24. No E Dummy Says:

    Re: “Pete said”, on 03 Oct 2007 at 10:20 am

    “For all you solar skeptics, take a look at thin film solar. It doesn’t use silicone, so it’s vastly cheaper to produce.”

    Silicone solar panels? D-oh! That’s SILICON (no “E”), nimrod. Silicone is a rubbery elastomer and insulator, also used in breast implants, while silicon is a crystalline solid metalloid, used as a semi-conductor in transistors, integrated circuits, and solar panels.

  25. Dolores Says:

    Maybe if you used silicone implants on the roof, some truckers would fill up your gas tank

  26. eR1c Says:

    Oh No, say it ain’t so.

    I don’t like the new Prius, it’s way too exciting looking and not at all what a fuel efficient car should look like.

    I don’t want a sports car. I want a basic functional car that gets excellent gas mileage.

    I even hate that color. I like brown, silver and light gray. Black, red, blue, yellow …all are way too flashy for my likes.

    please, Toyota, don’t change the Prius, keep it the same. I don’t take change very well.

  27. Chas Says:

    Nice, where do I get one, can’t wait. Hope we still have jobs when this thing comes out.

  28. Brent Says:

    I still want to know why I shoudl spend that much on a Prius that looks like Pooh when my Civic S gets Mid 40′s and costs a lot less.

  29. Tech progresses Says:

    Hey, author – Light is a spectrum – not all solar energy has to be derived from “visible” light – New solar films can generate from IR light (found in the shadows of your parking spot).
    FYI – Take a look at a magazine or newspaper over the last 100 years in 5 year increments – and you will see that there is a fairly well established trend of “new ideas and products” being developed.

  30. info Says:

    @ Tech progresses:

    When I say I park the car in a shadow I mean NO light, no matter what color. What can be found in a shadow of a parking lot is rather a reflection of the sunlight (all colors of course) no direct sunlight whatsoever. Otherwise it’s not much of a shadow, is it? True, you can get some energy out of reflections (and indeed some PV panels have back side that’s said to pick some reflected light and increase overall efficiency of the panel) but it is rather minuscule and would not justify the expense of having a PV panel on the roof. Direct sunlight – maybe, if you won’t spend more energy cooling the car afterwards. Reflected light – never.

  31. CFL-CTA Says:

    Air conditioner lowers a car’s miles per gallon by about 10 %–about 5mpg on a Prius. For a regular user of the AC (and I happen to know it turns on automatically), that will be a 5-mpg increase. How’s that not worth it? I love this idea!

  32. Doz Says:

    It certainly looks sexy.. sort of retro Lamborgini with that “flat” front nose ;-)

    As for the solar panels.. pah!
    They might add a few watts (20watts?) to the vehicle accessory circuits to offset the A/C in hot climates.. eg. California.

  33. Mike Says:

    Personally I prefer this 2009 Prius to the one that is actually coming out. This version keeps a lot of the styling of the second generation Prius,
    while fine-tuning it to produce a more attractive
    vehicle. The REAL 2009 Prius has a Yaris front end. And while I do find that more appealing than the current model. I believe it takes the unique look of the Prius away, making it ALMOST (not quite) indistinguishable from the other models in the Toyota line.

  34. Mar Says:

    I was eagerly awaiting this Prius and planned to get one as soon as it came out. I was sorely disappointed with the styling of what they actually released. Will probably be getting a Leaf, instead (not that I’m wild about its styling).

  35. info Says:

    Hi Mar, thanks for stopping by!
    I guess since the car is all about efficiency, any styling is going to be affected by it aerodynamic qualities. I’d have to say that I’m not too wild about the third gen Prius’ looks either. But it is very much in line with where the rest of the automotive industry is going (which in itself might have been a bad move though) – more aggressive looking, straight cuts etc. They did, however, manage to make the air drag even less than the rounder looking second gen Prius. In any case, I’m not looking to buy the third gen Prius myself – my last second gen one is only 2 years old and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it, so I’m going to just sit and wait until something comes along that’s truly worth getting a new car.

    As far as LEAF – I think it’s great as a second car and it really needs an available garage space. There may very well be an all-weather version of the charging station but I doubt anyone would want to be outside and mess with cables when it’s pouring rain or snow or even as hot as it is today – 102 degrees out. I guess, a $10/Gallon gas may change that attitude though, so, again, have to wait and see.

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