Since the invention of the petrol engine in the early 20th century, the looming instability of worldwide carbon levels and the amount of greenhouse gases our industrialized selves have dauntlessly spewed into the atmosphere have, not for a moment since its inauguration, stopped to smell the roses as they say.
Airborne poison levels have been on the climb since the start of the wheeled revolution and it has had its ill effects on most of the sentient and non-sentient earth. Effects that have been growing unhindered. That was until 1997. That is, the year when the very first mass-produced hybrid vehicle made its debut: The Toyota Prius. The introduction of this hybrid technology to the masses has sparked a change in a global motoring mindset.
Since then, the hybrid vehicle market has grown into the industrial competitor it is today with over a hundred models of hybrid vehicles across 20 different vehicle manufacturers that range from buses to passenger coupes to performance vehicles such as Ferrari’s and Porsche’s. Indeed the auto market has changed since the introduction of the first mass production hybrid, the Toyota Prius.
With its incomparably significant history laid out, the Toyota Prius hasn’t looked back either in its quest to save the environment one liter at a time. Through its 20 years of service, it has gone through four generations of evolution and countless technological developments; all of which aimed at making the world a better place. Exemplified to infinity and beyond by the recently launched Prius PHV (Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle) in Japan.
No looking back
From the 4-door sedan Prius of the 1997 to the 5-door hatch of the Prius PHV, the list of improvements and innovations in on-board technology and fuel economy, as well as aesthetic and riding comfort, will not be the shortest of lists. Boasting a very much improved, all-important EV mode range of up to 68.2 kilometers, more than double than that of its predecessor. Not to mention a reported fuel efficiency of 37.2 kilometers per liter after the battery has been depleted. That means running purely on petrol, it would go toe-to-toe with the most fuel-efficient vehicles out in the market today (Don’t forget that this Prius is designed to sit five comfortably!). This is made possible by the use of a large-capacity, lithium-ion battery, combined with efficiency improvements in the plug-in hybrid system this also allows the maximum EV mode speed to reach 135 kph, which is not by any standard, a slow drive.
The Prius PHV also features a dual motor drive system, using both the electric motor and the generator as the drive force, to achieve powerful acceleration performance. It takes advantage of a dedicated heater for the traction battery and the world’s first automatic air conditioner with a heat pump and gas injection function which helps prevent the engine from coming on during EV mode operation. All of this running in harmony with the 1.8-liter high-efficiency engine that achieves a true hybrid fuel efficiency of 37.2 km/L.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Recharge!
The world-renowned Toyota Prius now is joining the PHV class as it extends its charging capability to even your standard household outlets – no longer requiring special wiring. With a charging time of under six hours, optimizing the regular daily routines of the general working population: charge during the night then go (up to 68.2 kilometers) during the day which is the offerings of any self-respecting PHV in the market. But what sets this new Prius apart is that it features the world’s first “solar charging system” in mass-produced cars. This system supplies energy from sunlight to the traction battery, supplying the amount of electricity sufficient for driving the vehicle a maximum of up to 6.1 km/day. While the vehicle is being driven, this system helps to improve fuel efficiency by recharging the auxiliary battery.
What’s more is when the newly added EV Power Supply Mode has been selected, the vehicle’s external electrical power supply function can supply household electricity without the engine being turned on. In addition, when the HV Power Supply Mode has been selected, the Prius PHV (with the engine running) can supply electricity for about two days at a maximum output level of 1,500 watts, when starting with a full tank of gasoline.
Reliable Smart Safety
The Prius PHV is indeed an intelligent vehicle. And what is intelligence in a vehicle without keeping its passengers safe? Thus the Prius is equipped with the Toyota Safety Sense P, a collision avoidance assist package, is offered as standard in all grades. With this, the Prius PHV has achieved ASV++, the highest rating in the JNCAP (Japan New Car Assessment Program) Preventive Safety Performance Assessment, and the Five Star Award – the highest ranking in the JNCAP’s new overall evaluation for vehicle safety.
Bold New Face
The Prius, since its first release, has never been the shy type when it comes to showing off unconventional aesthetic qualities. In a way, always priding itself in carrying a façade that just shouts “look at me! I am different!” which is well and good for those who understand and appreciate its economic and environmentally sensitive capabilities but for the less educated, this aesthetic statement comes off as more of an “I am better than you” statement than anything. This split in public reception has earned the Prius a “Love it or Hate it” reputation. Which can still be strongly seen with this bold new iteration. With daring new lines and stronger, more swooping angles, the new façade would either make you love it for its daring beauty or just want to hate it for its somewhat messy exterior elements. But we’ll just let you decide on whether you love it or you just plainly don’t.
With all things said and done, love it or hate it, the Prius was designed to be a shining star in a world with roads full of darkness in the form of fuel consuming, carbon emitting gas guzzlers. The Prius, at the very least, offers a more than suitable, sustainable and economic alternative.