Toyota's Prius Chief Engineer Reveals The Future Of The Automobile. Part Three: A Game Changer In The Compact Class

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
toyota s prius chief engineer reveals the future of the automobile part three a

Back on Friday, Toyota’s Chief Engineer Satoshi Ogiso and TTAC talked about the past of the Prius, and the future of the automobile. Back to the here and now: We also talked about a car that has been a ( badly kept) secret until today: A compact hybrid that suddenly makes former miser-meisters (such as the Honda Insight or the Mazda2) look like gas guzzlers. It is the Toyota Aqua, probably called Prius C when and if it lands on other shores.

With an unheard-of fuel efficiency of 35 km/L (82.3 mpg) as measured under the new Japanese JC08 test cycle, or 40 km/L (94 mpg) when measured in the 10-15 cycle, the car is 30 percent better than its segment competitors.

  • Honda’s new compact Insight hybrid delivers 27.2 km/L (64 mpg) as measured under the JC08 test cycle and 31 km/L (72.9 mpg) as when measured in the 10-15 cycle.
  • Mazda’s new Demio, better known as the Mazda2 stateside, wrings 25 km/L (JC08, 58.8 mpg) or 30km/L (10-15, 70.5 mpg) out of a conventional engine using Mazda’s Skyactiv technology.

These numbers are definitely non-EPA. Ogiso wouldn’t even hazard a guess for the EPA number.

Ogiso worked his team hard to get to these numbers:

“Usually, people look at the competition and want to be a few percent better. I set the Aqua target at 40 kilometers per liter. That is 30 percent better than the competition. Everybody said: How can you set that target so high? Why is that number needed? If the competition is at 30 kilometers, aren’t 35 good enough?”

Not for Ogiso and not for Toyota, which is finding its old fighting spirit after the many setbacks it had to endure. Not only is the car a super-saver at the pump, it also will be priced “affordably” when it will be launched in Japan in late December 2011. The exact price remains under wraps, and may not even be announced at the Tokyo Motor Show. The Nikkei [sub] had figured it will cost $4,000 less than the Prius.

Remember when Ogiso thought back to the bad old pre-Prius days?

“At the time, the battery, motor, controller, these components were all huge and heavy. I drew a compact car, 4 meters or so long, with enough interior for 4 passengers. The rest of the space was very tiny, and I had to stuff these huge components somewhere.“

With the Aqua, he had to repeat that feat again.

“Cost, size, and weight is greatly reduced from the original Prius.”

Prius hybrid technology had to be further miniaturized to fit into a car that is 157.3 inches long (Prius: 175.6) and has a slightly shorter 100 inch wheelbase (Prius: 106.3).

Ogiso thinks this car will send other makers back to their CAD stations:

“The Prius is the game changer in the midsize class. The Aqua will be the game changer in the compact class in Japan.”

Just in Japan? What about the rest of the world? Ogiso cites “currency and production issues” that might delay the arrival of a Prius C on other shores. A Prius C is tied to where Prius hybrids are made, and that’s Japan, Thailand and soon China. The expensive parts, the power trains come solely from Japan. The high yen doesn’t make Japanese exports low cost. That’s one thing Ogiso can’t engineer.

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3 of 29 comments
  • Redmondjp Redmondjp on Nov 15, 2011

    Yet another car that will not be coming to our shores anytime soon . . .

  • Vance Torino Vance Torino on Nov 15, 2011

    If that’s the real Prius C (Aqua? Really, JDM?), it’s the first time I’ve seen its final form – and, well, it’s NOT AS BAD as I expected. Sort of Yaris-y in the generic Toyota idiom. Doesn’t broadcast it’s hybrid-ness, tho. (Which is not a small part of the regular Prius appeal.) All minor sins absolved if fuel economy is awesome and price reasonable. Otherwise, it will join the Insight, CR-Z, and HS250 in hybrid purgatory.

    • Bertel Schmitt Bertel Schmitt on Nov 15, 2011

      That's it. Final shipping version. Real pictures. This December at a Toyota dealer near ... me.

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