To go before the competitionEdward Green ▼ | Monday May 18, 2009 6:01PM ET
The midsize third-generation 2010 Prius will offer even better mileage ratings than the first model, enhanced performance, and innovative design features. It will be quieter, roomier, and equipped with advanced standard and available features such as a moonroof with solar panels, four driving modes, Intelligent Parking Assist (IPA) and steering wheel touch controls that display on the instrument panel.
The first-generation Prius entered the market in 1997 as the first mass-produced hybrid. The name Prius, "to go before" in Latin, became symbolic of a car that was launched even before environmental awareness had become a mainstream social issue. From the beginning, Toyota’s full-hybrid system was developed in-house and has become a driving force behind advanced vehicle technology. The company's exclusive Hybrid Synergy Drive System was introduced in 2004 on the second-generation Prius. Since then, more than 670,000 have been sold in the U.S.
The third-generation Prius extends its record of continuous improvement in fuel economy. The first-generation Prius, which was rated 41 EPA combined mpg, was replaced by the current model, which is EPA rated at 46 mpg, combined city/highway. Using a combination of technologies, fuel efficiency was increased to an estimated 50 miles per gallon for the new Prius.
A larger and more powerful 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle, four-cylinder engine will power the new Prius. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the larger engine actually helps improve highway mileage. By making more torque, the new engine can run at lower average rpm on the highway. When operating at lower rpm, the new engine uses less fuel. Mileage is especially improved in cold-start conditions and at higher speeds.
Use of an electric water pump and a new exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system also contribute to the engine’s efficiency. The 1.8-liter Prius engine is the first Toyota power plant that requires no belts under the hood for better fuel economy and less potential maintenance.
Unlike most other hybrid vehicles available, Prius has been a "full" hybrid since introduction. This allows it to run on engine alone, battery alone, or a combination of both. The system blends the best of parallel hybrid and series hybrid designs to achieve the ability to operate on the electric mode alone, and to charge the batteries while the car is running.
The patented Hybrid Synergy Drive system in the 2010 Prius is 90 percent newly-developed with significant improvements over previous models. ■