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Prius c hybrid goes on sale in US with entry MSRP of $18,950; new transaxle, motor technology

The new transaxle in the Prius c features a new cooling system; overall this new hybrid unit with its 2 motor system is now approaching the same weight as single motor competitive systems and is maintaining a competitive size profile, according to Toyota. Click to enlarge.

Toyota Motor Sales, USA is putting the new Prius c, the fourth member of the expanded Prius family (earlier post), on sale in the US in mid-March with a starting MSRP of $18,950—a lower MSRP than the first-generation Prius carried 12 years ago, noted Bob Carter, Toyota Division Group VP & GM, at the media preview in January for the new hybrid.

With the Prius c (sold as the Aqua in Japan, earlier post), Toyota is striving to strike a balance between fuel efficiency, styling, intelligent connectivity and affordability to attract younger, eco-conscious buyers who may have desired, but couldn’t afford, a hybrid. To help meet that design target, Toyota engineers focused on making the hybrid system more compact and lighter in weight—the Prius c hybrid system is 14% lighter than that of the current Prius Liftback.

Prius c. Click to enlarge.

The Prius c (“c” for city) is targeted at young singles and couples, and is the gateway vehicle for the Prius Family, Carter said. The Prius c will offer a single grade with four equipment levels:

  • Prius c One (MSRP $18,950) features: power windows and door locks, automatic climate control, Multi-Information Display (MID), Hill Start Assist Control (HAC), Remote Keyless Entry, projector-beam halogen headlamps, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, 4-speaker audio, Bluetooth hands-free telephone controls, Bluetooth and USB auxiliary outlets, rear window wiper.

  • Prius c Two (MSRP $19,900) adds cruise control, tonneau cover, 6-way adjustable driver seat with vertical height adjustment, 60/40 split fold-down rear seat, engine immobilizer, tilt/telescopic steering wheel and 6-speaker audio system.

  • Prius c Three (MSRP $21,635) adds Display Audio with Navigation and Entune, Touch Tracer Display, Smart Key System on front doors and liftgate with Push Button Start and more.

  • Prius c Four (MSRP $23,230) adds SofTex-trimmed seats, heated front seats, alloy wheels, fog lamps.

The Prius Family will have a big hand in defining Toyota’s future. I can see combined Prius sales in the US leading Toyota by the end of the decade.

The Prius v is one of our quickest-turning vehicles at dealerships. We sold 8,399 in the first 10 weeks it was on the market; nearly two-thirds of Prius v buyers are first-time hybrid buyers. Now that we have two Prius Family members in showrooms [v and Liftback], it hasn’t dampened the strong popularity of the third-generation Prius Liftback. The early interest in the Prius v has drawn strong traffic to dealers, with some of those new Prius buyers liking the v but actually deciding that the Liftback fit their needs best.

The Prius c, like the v and the Plug-in, will add substantial incremental sales to Prius this year, with total family sales of about 220,000. Both the Prius c and the v will be about 15-20 percent of the mix, with the Plug-in around 5%.

—Bob Carter

The hybrid system in the Prius c comprises a SULEV (Tier 2 Bin 3)-rated 1.5-liter in-line, four-cylinder gasoline engine (INZ-FXE) that utilizes an Atkinson cycle to increase efficiency, a new hybrid transaxle (P510), an air-cooled, high-output 144V, 6.5 Ah NiMH battery and a variable-voltage system in which a boost converter boosts the operating voltage of the system to a maximum of 520 V DC. Maximum hybrid system output is 73.6 kW (98.7 hp)

Estimated EPA fuel economy ratings are 53/46/50 mpg US city/highway/combined (4.4/5.1/4.7 L/100 km).

Engine. The 1NZ-FXE is an in-line 4-cylinder, 1.5-liter, 16-valve DOHC engine. Although the engine number is the same as in earlier generations of the Prius, the engine for the Prius c is about 70% new, said Chief Engineer Satoshi Ogiso.

It features a high-expansion ratio Atkinson cycle, Variable Valve Timing-intelligent (VVT-i) system, Electric Throttle Control System-intelligent (ETCS-i) and Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) system employing a newly designed, highly efficient EGR cooler from Denso (earlier post). The engine also uses Sequential Multiport Fuel Injection (SFI) and Electronic Spark Advance (ESA).

The adoption of a cooled-EGR system reduces cooling loss and pumping loss; with lower exhaust heat, heat efficiency was enhanced and, consequently, fuel efficiency was enhanced as well.

The VVT-i system controls the intake camshaft within a range of 47° of Crankshaft Angle to provide valve timing suited to the engine operating condition. This improves torque in all engine speed ranges as well as increasing fuel economy, and reducing exhaust emissions.

Toyota engineers eliminated the accessory drive belts, thereby reducing losses from friction. Too, the electrically driven water pump allows coolant flow rate to be controlled with greater precision based on vehicle conditions for better fuel efficiency.

Exhaust Heat Recirculation heats engine coolant using a newly designed heat exchanger. The more efficient fin-type heat exchanger provides improved cold-weather performance and reduces time for coolant to reach operating temperature. This shortens the time until the gasoline engine can stop and also improves heater performance, reducing time to warm air by 1 minute.

Maximum power is 54 kW (72 hp) @ 4800 rpm; maximum torque is 111 N·m (82 lb-ft) @ 3600 - 4400 rpm.

The new P510 transaxle in the Prius c is 21.0 mm shorter and 19.5 mm narrower than current Prius 3G transaxle (P410). Click to enlarge.

P510 Transaxle. Toyota has introduced several innovations with the Prius c’s transaxle, two of which represent a departure from the company’s previous hybrid transaxle architectures. The transaxle assembly contains Motor Generator No. 1 (MG1) which functions as the starter and a generator, and Motor Generator No. 2 (MG2) which also functions as a generator as well as the vehicle’s traction motor, along with a final drive and differential. As with all Toyota hybrid transaxles introduced from 2006 forward, it utilizes a planetary reduction gear for the traction motor in addition to the planetary gearset that is employed as a power-split device. The P510’s MG1 offers maximum output of 42.4 kW (56 hp); MG2 offers maximum output of 45 kW (60.3 hp) and 169 N·m (124.6 lb-ft) of torque.

Prior to designing the P510 transaxle, Toyota had employed random-wound distributed windings, with the sole exception being the resin-encased, solenoidal MG1 winding used in the P410 transaxle (Gen 3 Prius Liftback, Prius v, and Lexus CT200h). While distributed windings often deliver excellent performance, they can be bulky as well as costly to build. For the P510 transaxle, however, Toyota designed compact, high-output solenoidal windings for both MG1 and MG2. The P510’s windings use much thicker wire than usual—some ten times thicker than that in the P410 generator winding—with a trapezoidal cross-section. The new winding design has made the P510 transaxle easier to mass produce, according to Chief Engineer Ogiso. In addition, solenoidal windings are typically less susceptible than distributed windings to turn-to-turn winding faults, which are themselves exacerbated by the fast rise times of pulse width modulated inverters.

The transaxle’s cooling system has also been simplified. Previous Toyota hybrid transaxles have supplemented a splash lubrication system with an engine-driven transaxle fluid pump for high-speed and/or sustained high torque operation. The transaxle fluid circuits have, in turn, been augmented by heat sinks which are cooled by a water-based coolant loop shared with the powertrain’s inverter. The P510 transaxle does away with the shared coolant loop, which is now exclusive to the inverter, and instead diverts some of the transaxle’s oil pump output, via an external pipe, to an internal manifold pipe mounted above the transaxle windings. Transaxle fluid then drips down onto the end turns of the windings, bypassing the transaxle’s rotors and keeping windage losses to a minimum.

The new transaxle is some 16% lighter than the P410 transaxle, and features a redesigned a new torsional vibration damper to help suppress engine noise as well as the transfer of vibration between the engine and transaxle. According to Chief Engineer Ogiso, Toyota will roll out the design changes to other hybrid platforms over time. A paper on the P510 transaxle, entitled “Development of New Hybrid Transaxle for Sub-Compact-Class Vehicles”, will be presented at SAE 2012 World Congress in April.

The battery pack in the Prius c is more compact than in the Liftback. Click to enlarge.

Battery pack. The 144V NiMH air-cooled battery pack in the Prius c has been made more compact and lightweight and is installed under the rear seat. (The NiMH pack in the Liftback is 201V.) The battery module includes the battery pack, battery ECU, system main relays and service plug. The 144V output from the battery is boosted to 520V DC maximum before conversion to alternating current.

The pack comprises 20 NiMH modules (120 cells), with each module 7.2V DC (1.2 volts x 6 cells). Pack peak output is 19.3 kW (25.9 hp). The smaller pack in the Prius c weighs about 68 lb (31 kg), compared to about 92 lb (42 kg) in the Liftback, with 168 cells.

The battery pack is installed beneath the rear seat. Click to enlarge.

The cool air intake is positioned beneath rear seat; cooling air velocity and volume are optimized for cooling efficiency. The battery is warranted for 10 years/150,000 miles. At end of life, every part of the battery, from the precious metals to the plastic, plates, steel case and the wiring, will be recycled or processed for disposal.

Power electronics. The inverter on the Prius c is smaller and lighter than that in the Prius 3G. Weight is reduced 10% (3 lb, 1.4 kg) and volume is reduced 12 percent (1.6 liters).

Newly designed thinner IGBT (Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor) chips reduce energy loss, contributing to enhanced fuel efficiency.

Aerodynamic features. Toyota applied a number of aerodynamic features to the Prius c to achieve a good coefficient of drag of 0.28. (As vehicles get shorter, it makes it more challenging to deliver a good Cd; the Liftback, by comparison, has a Cd of 0.25.)

Among the features are aero stabilizing fins installed on the side face of the rear combination lamp and at the base of the outer mirror; underbody covers to improve airflow; and lightweight aluminum wheels and wheel covers designed with aerodynamic performance in mind.

Driving modes. In addition to its base hybrid driving mode, the Prius c offers an ECO mode and an EV mode which can be activated via buttons next to the parking brake handle.

  • ECO mode maximizes fuel savings across all driving conditions. It modifies or smoothes out the electronic throttle control program to reduce throttle response, reducing throttle opening by up to a maximum of 11.6%. It also modifies air conditioning operation. It also can improve acceleration performance in low-traction conditions such as ice and snow as the reduced output helps to minimize wheel slippage.

    EPA label calculations do not include ECO Mode.

  • EV mode helps keep the vehicle in electric-only mode longer at low speeds. In EV Mode, the ECU operates the vehicle using only MG2 if required conditions are satisfied.

    Under certain operating conditions, the vehicle can go approximately 25 mph (40 km/h) for up to approximately one-half mile (possibly longer depending on vehicle and battery conditions). The SOC (state of charge) level display on the Energy Monitor must be four bars or more to operate in EV mode.

Driving first impressions. GCC had the opportunity briefly to drive the Prius c under a variety of city and highway conditions during the preview. The little hybrid is quite likeable—it handles well and is comfortable; Toyota’s focus on the comfort of the seats (at least the front seats, we didn’t climb into the back) paid off, as did its focus on reducing NVH.

The most noticeable downside in delivered performance is on a steep incline, or when attempting to overtake on the highway. Under those conditions, the power is not there, and the car labors. However, as Toyota pointed out, that wasn’t part of the core design target. They opted for keeping overall cost down and delivering a very fuel-efficient vehicle optimized for less strenuous conditions. (Again, “c” is for city.)

That said, once the Prius c was at speed on the highway, it kept securely to the pavement.

The ongoing tension between cost and content also shows at points. As an example, the entry grades do not offer the push-button start familiar to Prius Liftback drivers—however the rather substantial opening (sealed) remains in the dash as a visual reminder.


  • Development of New Hybrid Transaxle for Sub-Compact-Class Vehicles (SAE 2012-01-0623)



I can also understand why Toyota did not want the early PHEV people to mess with the design. It was never intended to operate like a full EV in the first place.


The new P510 transaxle weights about 163 lbs (including ATF). It functions as a transmission, electric propulsion system, alternator/generator, starter and even as part of the brake (regen).

Mechanically, it is very simple. The complexity is in the control software. The trick is to reuse the existing part and giving it many useful roles. That saves weight, cost, complexity, maintenance and increases reliability.

Prius c weights the same as Honda Fit and 250 lbs lighter than the Insight.

Account Deleted


Thank you for your answers. I learned something today.

Toyotas hybrid design is really ingenious now that I understand more how it functions. Previously I had a feeling that Toyota’s dual electric motor design was overly complex and expensive. Now I see it actually cut the cost and size of the needed battery in half and thereby likely save considerably more costs than adding the MG1. Toyota probably has a patent on this dual electric motor design because I do not see any of its competitors using it. To compete with Toyota in hybrids they will have to wait for Toyotas dual electric motor design to expire or wait until hybrid batteries can do the job of MG1 at less cost, weight and space.

Honda must be trembling. By comparison the Prius c makes the Insight look obsolete.


clever but complex.

When people see 'hybrid' they tend to stop thinking and proclaim: "complex!"

If you take the time to learn how HSD II works, you'll see that it is a wonder of simplicity.

It is merely a (very robust) planetary gearset. Have you seen the complexity of an conventional gearbox? There are no sliding gears or clutch either in the HSD II, it is all electronically controlled.


@Usbseawolf2000, you miss the battery size point. Batteres can be constructed to max power(cranking, starting, ..) or storage(deep-cycle, marine, ..).

Take the ~$100 battery out of your car and replace with 10 to 20 motorcycle batteries for ~$400 to equal the car battery volts and amp hours. Make the extra dozens of connections and upload a video of starting your car.

This is the kind of extra expense GM/Chevron has forced on Toyota/consumers for decades by not licensing >10 amp NiMH cells.


@kelly - I understand the point and I am aware of the NiMh patent restriction for the large battery.

Prius HV battery consists of 168 cells with 6.5Ah @ 201.6V having 1.31kWh capacity. It can put out 27kW. That's doing 20C. The pack pulls 134A to make that kind of power.

Say, you want to cut the number of cells in half and keep the same 1.31kWh capacity. That means you need 84 of 13Ah cells. The voltage will drop to 100.8V. To put out the same 27kW, you'll need to draw 268A (@40C). There is no high power NiMh cell that can do it.

The highest power density NiMh (automotive grade) are already in the Prius. They have perfected it and already cut the number of cells from 228 cells (Gen I) down to 168 (Gen II and Gen III).

In theory (at the cell level), Prius HV battery should be able to output 37.8kW since each module (group of 6) is rated 1.35kW and there are 28 modules in total. Either Toyota is being conservative or perhaps the pack level is always lower than the cell level due to the inter-connections.

NiMh spec: http://www.peve.jp/e/hevjyusi.html


@Henrik - Ford hybrids use the same power-split (series-parallel) hybrid setup as well. They have a cross-licensing agreement with Toyota.

To add to my previous post, Toyota cut down the number of cells to 120 with the Prius c. It still draws 20C and make less power due to the lower number of cells. That's what needed for a smaller lighter car so the pack can fit under the rear seats.



Motors and alternator with NO gears is simpler. Use the motors to drive each wheel with NO differential and it is even simpler.


"It is a sophisticated and complicated combination of gearing, electrical motor-generators and computer controlled electronic controls."

"In contrast, Honda's Integrated Motor Assist uses a more traditional ICE and transmission where the flywheel is replaced with an electric motor, thereby reducing complexity and increasing serviceability due to the familiar layout."



@SJC - You do know that IMA requires a separate mechanical CVT gearbox that is about the same size/weight of HSD transaxle, right?

If you dig deeper into IMA, the control logic is much more complex than HSD due to a single motor limitation - leading to early battery failure. Honda has updated the firmware of the Civic hybrid 14 times!


Usbseawolf, "Say, you want to cut the number of cells in half and keep the same 1.31kWh capacity. That means you need 84 of 13Ah cells. The voltage will drop to 100.8V."

Why? 168 cells X 1.2 volts/cell, in series, is still 201.6V. But, like the car/cycle battery/module example, one housing is much cheaper and more reliable than a dozen, besides the dozens of extra electrical connections.

But the GM/Chevron NiMh patent restriction for the large battery killed this economy for hybrids - besides 15 years of mass produced RAV4 EVs/any NiMH EVs on the road.


Concerning Honda's Integrated Motor Assist, why isn't the electric motor powerful enough to make a significant difference?

After driving one, there's no Prius-like 50 mpg and, at 12.5 sec/0-60, there's little power.


I am not advocating for the IMA, simply quoting Wiki's comments. The 2012 Civic hybrid has a more powerful engine and motor and has gone from 41 mpg to 44 mpg EPA.


SJC, I read your Prius HSD wiki link and the 'ten phases of operation'(potential repair costs) scared me. Then again, I guess it's been thirty years since a new car could run without a computer system.

Sometimes though, winter temperatures fall below 0F and the only vehicle that starts is a 70 year-old H tractor.

Question: if there's a catastrophe, EM pulse, etc. - what would a survivalist drive?


a bike


@Kelly - Managing the temperature and balancing voltage of all 168 cells is not feasible. They grouped them into 6 cells reducing the number of sensors. Divide and conquer.


SJC, what if he has to transport several mutants by day and also impress a female survivalist by night?


Then he is out of options.


usbseawolf2000, I don't doubt Toyota did what they could, within 'NiMH big battery' patent constraints, but how much more flexible and less expensive could batteries and vehicles be without those constraints?

Prius version 1 used 240(?) 'D' size cells for 288v, managed/balanced them from 1997 till 2003. If grouping by 6 is better, maybe grouping by 36 is better still - but they can't license the higher output.

In any case, the evil ones got all the world's NiMH BEV Toyota, Honda, EV1, etc. manufacturing stopped.


Prius Gen1 had 40 modules (6 cells). Toyota also use modules with 8 cells in Camry and Highlander hybrid.


We might have had plug hybrids years sooner if the large format NiMH batteries had continued to be produced, but we will never know for sure now.

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