Report: Toyota plans bigger Prius with new battery

AP News
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Posted: Nov 13, 2009 12:51 AM

Toyota is planning a larger version of its popular Prius hybrid, which will be powered by a new kind of battery, a Japanese newspaper reported Friday.

The new Prius, either a station wagon or SUV, is set to go on sale by the end of next year. It will be the first from Toyota Motor Corp. with a lithium-ion battery, which is more powerful than the nickel-metal hydride battery, now in its hybrids, according to the nationally circulated Yomiuri newspaper.

Toyota, the world's top automaker, declined comment on product plans.

The Yomiuri said the Prius will sell for about 2 million yen ($22,000), but did not give details.

Toyota leads rivals in hybrids, especially in Japan, where government ecological incentives have made it a top-seller for months.

Introducing a model with a more powerful battery could help widen Toyota's lead over rivals, at a time when Japan's No. 2 automaker Honda Motor Co. has been aggressive with hybrid offerings, such as the Insight.

Automakers have all been working on next-generation batteries. Lithium-ion batteries, similar to the kind used in laptops and other gadgets, require technological improvements before they can be used in cars because they tend to be more delicate and prone to heating problems.

Toyota has been working on lithium-ion batteries for years, and has a joint venture with Japanese electronics maker Panasonic Corp. to develop them for cars.