Toyota Prius

Hybrid powertrain, which incorporated both petrol engine and electric motor, appeared many years ago in show cars. Its objective is to reduce emission as well as fuel consumption through the following mechanism : during acceleration, the stronger petrol engine provides the power, then the electric motor will take over in higher speed, it will also generate electricity and charge up the batteries during braking, thus make good use of the energy that conventional car loses.  

Toyota became the first car maker to put "Hybrid car" in production by launching Prius in December 1997. At first, it is only for sale in Japan in a small volume, but strong reaction may lead to its appearance in foreign markets, especially is environmental conscious California.  

Prius uses a compact hybrid power unit, in which the straight four 1.5 litres engine is mated inline with the d.c. motor and driving the front wheel. The petrol engine is of Toyota's latest lean burn technology, which provides remarkable emission and fuel consumption even without the aid of the electric motor. A complex planetary transmission offers smooth transition between the engine and the motor. 40 pieces of Ni-MH batteries store the energy for motor use, they alone may not provide enough range, but during normal use they will be frequently charged up by the energy generated by braking so that the car can travel no shorter than conventional petrol cars.  

Compare with fully electric cars like GM EV1 and Honda EV Plus, Prius has the advantage of long range and no-charging time needed, that makes it far more practical. Compare with petrol cars, it is slower due to the additional weight of the batteries and electric motor, but it burns a friction fuel and offers superior emission just next to electric cars, that seems to be very attractive in the future.  

Besides the power unit, Prius offers as much interior space as Corona despite of the Corolla-size external dimensions, thanks to the long wheelbase and short overhangs. Dashboard and central console is futuristically styled. Satellite navigation is provided in domestic market. It is the most practical green car until now. 

The above report was last updated in 1998. All Rights Reserved.


Front-engined, Fwd
L / W / H / WB: 4275 / 1695 / 1490 / 2550 mm
Inline-4, dohc, 4v/cyl, direct-injection.
1496 c.c.
Electric motor: 40 hp/940-2000 rpm
Engine: 58 hp
Electric motor : 225 lbft/0-940 rpm
Engine: 75 lbft
1240 kg
Top speed
97 mph* (engine + motor)
91 mph* (engine only)
0-60 mph
14.1 sec* (engine + motor)
20.7 sec* (engine only)
0-100 mph
* Tested by Car and Driver

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