Toyota recently unveiled the country's first ever hybrid vehicle available in the market, the Toyota Prius. The Prius remains worthy of its name which means "to precede" in Latin, as it is the global pioneer of hybrid technology and many are following its lead.

The Prius makes use of Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSD), which is celebrated as a breakthrough in vehicle technology, being able to run on its gasoline engine, electric motor or both, as directed by the intelligent energy-management system.

It takes pride in having one of the world's highest fuel efficiency, allegedly achieving a consumption record of 38km/l in Japan, while providing power similar to a larger 2.4L engine. Aside from high fuel efficiency, the flexibility of the hybrid system delivers cleaner emissions and cabin quietness but also provides powerful acceleration when needed.

Since its debut in 1997, the world's first mass-produced hybrid vehicle was sold in over 40 countries and regions around the world. Its cumulative sales exceeded 1.25 million units as of March 31, 2009. The 2009 Prius, is the third-generation model, which will be launched in over 80 countries worldwide to further promote hybrid technology.

Synergy of the Electric Motor and Engine

When starting off, the vehicle runs solely on electric power. As it speeds up both the electric motor and the engine drive the wheels to achieve smooth acceleration. An intelligent management system controls both the motor and the engine for high performance. The vehicle can also run solely on the electric motor at slow-cruising speeds.

Another energy-maximizing feature of the Prius is its regenerative breaking. This allows the motor-generator to recharge itself by converting kinetic energy into stored electric energy, which would be used later on, as the vehicle starts to move again. Furthermore, the engine shuts down when the vehicle comes to rest. The system conserves fuel and minimizes CO2 emissions by limiting engine operation.

Vehicle Outline

Advanced hybrid performance

The Prius does more than fulfill its responsibility to the environment with its world leading performance. Aside from its standard hybrid setting, the new Prius also comes with three alternative driving modes.

The Eco Mode helps drivers achieve their best mileage with emphasis on fuel efficiency. The Eco-Drive Monitor on the central instrument panel monitors driving manner and displays: 1) the Hybrid System Indicator, which shows status of accelerator operation and energy regeneration, 2) one-minute or five-minute fuel efficiency rates, 3) a fuel efficiency history that shows average and maximum consumption for the past five trips, and 4) real-time energy consumption.

For a sportier feel, the Power Mode offers more agile driving due to more reactive accelerator response.

The EV (Electric Vehicle) Drive Mode allows driving on battery power alone at low speeds, if conditions permit. This results to quiet, smooth and zero-emission operation.

Higher engine efficiency

The newly developed 1.8-liter gasoline engine reduces rpm and lowers fuel consumption at high speeds. The ample output and torque result to improved overall performance and economy.

In addition to this, the Prius employs Toyota's first electric-powered water pump which contributes to the engine's efficiency, requiring no belts under its hood for better fuel economy and less potential maintenance.

Optimized Weight of Key Components

Almost all of its elements contribute to the Prius' superb performance. To name a few, the engine is more efficient, the high-speed motor's output was improved, the reduction gear's torque was increased, and the inverter and other parts are smaller and lighter. The power control unit uses a boost converter to raise system voltage to a maximum of 650V, despite the overall reduction of the hybrid battery's size.

Moreover, the uses of sound-absorbing and vibration-controlling materials, and the adoption of a high-rigidity body, help further minimize noise in the cabin.

The high-output nickel-metal hydride hybrid battery features smaller cooling intake/ exhaust ducts and fans which maximize energy storage capacity. Its size is also more compact and is strategically tucked in the rear area to increase cargo space, specifically 30 liters more than that of the second-generation Prius.

Functional Aesthetics

The vehicle's aerodynamic performance is one of the world's best with a coefficient drag of 0.25. Every angle of the Prius was taken into consideration to achieve superiority in both function and design. The front pillars were moved forward by 25mm and placed at an oblique angle to refine the character lines and reduce drag while the roof peak was moved back to create a roomier rear space. The optimized platform helps achieves smooth steering, superior straight-line driving and cruising stability at high speeds.

The advanced cockpit design is divided into two zones complementing form and function. The Command Zone optimizes the position of the vehicle's controls for easy operation, whereas the Display Zone is designed for high visibility of driving information.

Further reflecting its eco-friendly nature, the driver's seat cushion, scuff plates, and other interior components are made of Ecological Plastic. The wide instrument panel reflects a pattern similar to leaf veins, to further enhance ecological feel.

Equipment ahead of the times

The world's first Touch Tracer Display allows the driver to view the toggling movement on the display screen as the steering wheel audio, air conditioning and display switches are depressed. The Heads-Up Display (HUD) provides safety and convenience through reflecting the Hybrid System Indicator onto the windshield glass just in front of the driver's line of sight, for minimal eye movement and better concentration on the road. Visibility is also ensured with the HUD's height and brightness adjustment switches.

Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), seven Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) airbags and an Active Headrest for the driver and front passenger take safety features to the next level.

The "Global Outstanding Assessment" body has been further developed to create an advanced collision-safety structure to reduce injuries of both passengers and pedestrians.

Dawn of the Hybrid Age

The Prius meets both the Euro 5 and the new 2015 Japanese fuel efficiency standards, the strictest standard for emissions in Japan. This could be attributed to the low emissions of the third generation model, which was lowered by 75%.

Toyota employed the Eco-Vehicle Assessment System (Eco-VAS) while it was in the process of designing the Prius. Eco-VAS is an original, comprehensive, environmental impact assessment system.

Review of materials, processing methods and adhesives used for interior parts reduced volatile organic compounds and unpleasant interior odors.

The Prius offers just a preview of the latest innovations in hybrid engineering and leading-edge technologies. In continuously finding ways to improve fuel economy, reduce oil consumption and harmful emissions, Toyota is working towards its ultimate goal of sustainable mobility.

The Prius will retail for Php2.25-million and will be available at selected Toyota dealerships.