2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid: New Style, Same Old Hybrid System

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Toyota Camry trunk badge

Toyota Camry trunk badge

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Sometimes, you find information in the strangest places.

Take the YouTube video, "Georgetown Plant on the 2012 Camry," apparently posted by Toyota of the Black Hills, a dealer in Rapid City, South Dakota.

It's got some shots of the newly redesigned 2012 Toyota Camry moving down the production line in Georgetown, Kentucky.

You can see the revised front styling of the car, and some rear shots too.

[UPDATE, Wed, July 27: The video has now been removed from YouTube, so we suspect we really did see something we weren't supposed to. Note that the first two photos in this article are screen captures from that video, however.]

Nickel-metal-hydride hybrid battery pack being installed in trunk of new 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid

Nickel-metal-hydride hybrid battery pack being installed in trunk of new 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid

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The piece that interested us, though, was a clip of a hybrid battery pack being swung into the trunk for installation in a new Camry Hybrid model.

We'd wondered whether the 2012 Camry Hybrid might be the first Toyota sold in the U.S. to switch from their traditional, decade-old nickel-metal-hydride battery technology to a newer, more energy-dense lithium-ion battery pack.

Toyota had planned to do that with the all-new 2010 Toyota Prius, but it bet on the wrong battery technology, so it had to keep on using the older pack--as it still does today in every vehicle it builds for production with its Hybrid Synergy Drive system.

Nickel-metal-hydride hybrid battery pack in trunk of 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid

Nickel-metal-hydride hybrid battery pack in trunk of 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid

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But as far as we can tell, the pack being swung into the hybrid 2012 Camry is pretty much identical to the 2009 pack shown in the photo here.

We're not really all that surprised. When Toyota does move to a lithium-ion pack in a conventional hybrid, it will most likely do so first in its iconic Prius.

A seven-seat version of the new 2012 Toyota Prius V wagon will use a lithium-ion pack between the front seats, to allow a fold-down third row in the load deck--but that version, the Prius+, won't be sold here.

Driving impressions from media previews of the new 2012 Toyota Camry are embargoed until late August, so you'll have roughly a month to study the video.

Meanwhile, tell us what you think about the new 2012 Toyota Camry and Camry Hybrid. Do you like the styling? Think it'll get better gas mileage? And, would you buy a Camry Hybrid?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.


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Comments (5)
  1. Well, it's hard to tell from these shots, but it looks pretty much like a refreshed version of the outgoing Camry. With stiff competition from Hyunda/KIA and a new Accord and Altima not far away, the new Camry needs to be the best of the best from day one. These days, I don't have much confidence in Toyota or Honda to really innovate. Even the new Chevy Malibu looks pretty nice and offers a lot for the money plus good fuel economy.

    Would I buy a Camry Hybrid? It would have to be much more fuel efficient and offer a much higher level of refinement than the current one. Probably not for me, but never say never.

  2. I think we should just wait for the official announcement, you really can't tell much from the video. Who know maybe they used an older pack for the video. The new pack may not have been on hand but they wanted to show it in the video so they grabbed what they had.

  3. Wrong battery pack?

    That's just plain nonsense. There is nothing wrong with NiMH, and with the investment that Toyota has pumped into NiMH, they can sell a more cost-effective hybrid.

    If lithium is so perfect, then Hyundai would make the the Sonata hybrid the standard offering, but they aren't because they know the Sonata hybrid is purely about marketing and having a chip in the battery game.

    Toyota NEVER stated that they invested in the wrong battery. They are on record stating that they would have had to increase prices had they switched to lithium.

    If someone has developed a cheaper, more energy efficient lithium battery, why haven't they taken on the Prius since they could underprice them?

    Because such a battery doesn't exist.

  4. @Chad: Please read the linked article. I heard Koie Saga say that Toyota chose the wrong lithium-ion chemistry, which is why its plans to launch the third-generation 2010 Prius with a lithium-ion pack could not be realized. Instead, it fell back on the tried-and-true NiMH it had always used. However, the company will--over time--convert its hybrids to Li-ion. By 2015 I'd expect up to half its conventional hybrids to use Li-ion, and of course any plug-in at all will have to use Li-ion.

  5. It's been fairly widely reported that the new Camry Hybrid trunk is going to be larger than the previous generation's standard Camry, so there must be something going on with either the battery chemistry or a new location for it. Can you please show the screenshots where the 2012 Camry is showing up in this video, because I only see the last gen Camry.

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