The Toyota Hybrid Prius

What hasn’t been said yet about Toyota’s hybrid success called Prius?  It seems everyone knows about it or wants one.

A little history. According to Wikepedia, in 1994, Toyota executive Takeshi Uchiyamada was given the task of creating a new car which would be both fuel efficient and environmentally friendly.  It first went on sale in Japan in 1997 and worldwide by 2001 to become the icon it is.  In 2008, the EPA rated this vehicle the most fuel efficient sold in the US.

How does it work? With a combine hybrid or series-parallel system that can use its gas and/or electric engine and uses NiMH batteries guaranteed 100,000 miles, or 8 years.  It sports regenerative braking which stores back braking energy into electricity in the batteries, the longer you break, the higher the charge.  The electric engines put out about 50 kW (67 hp) and only the European and Japanese have a choice of only electric drive.  It is an after market product in the US.

What makes it appealing compared to other hybrids? It sports good 4 to 5 star security features, the gas engine stops when the vehicle stops and has a good aerodynamic coefficient (o.26).  Combine it with a light weight dues to aluminum usage and resins, helps the vehicle achieve good mileage.

What’s the mileage? Bare in mind that mileage depends on the way you drive and what type of driving you do, it is estimated at 45mpg, though the owners we have interviewed around Southern California report 35 to 40mpg.  European and Japanese models are even more economical.

What’s in the future for it? Plug-in hybrid (PHEV) is on almost every other news when it comes to Eco-friendly vehicles and Toyota will finally make the PHEV Prius by 2009, however according to Wikipedia: “In May 2008, US News stated that a plug-in Prius “won’t be ready for public sale for several years.”.  Some Prius have already been converted to PHEV by independents.  Here is a quick peak at the next version.  And have no fear, Toyota is bumping up the production.

What about now? Forbes covered the 2008 Prius here.  With improvements over its predecessors, it combines a 1.5-liter gasoline engine with an electric motor/generator and a rechargeable battery pack and can run solely on electric power until around 20 mph.

OK, what’s the cost? A 2008 version will set you back about $23,000.  Thinking of buying a used one and save some money?  Not, so as used Prius are more expensive than when new.

Clearly the Prius is the poster child of Eco-friendly vehicles.  If things got started with GM’s EV-1, the Prius continued into the fray.  It got huge coverage when celebrities were seen in it a few years back.  It is a good choice for people wanting to make a statement and also save a few pennies.  As with any vehicles, it starts to save you money when you have paid it off and you drive it to its best capacity.  Also with the advant of newer full electric vehicles, EV such as the Tesla Roadster or the Zenn amongst many, there are more choices and alternatives.