The Prius Evolution
Toyota has established itself as one of the leaders in the green vehicle market thanks to the Prius, which was the first mass-produced plug-in hybrid and is now one of the most popular and best-selling hybrid vehicles in the world. Read more in its evolution into one of the most popular green car brands.
The first Prius was launched in 1997, and it has come a long way since. Now, 16 years later, Toyota is planning to give it a makeover and we can expect to see a lot of changes on the next generation that is supposed to be unveiled in 2014. The most significant changes will be made to the exterior design and the fuel economy, giving it a more stylish look and making it more fuel-efficient than previous models.
When the first generation Prius was introduced 16 years ago, it was a four-door compact car that had a fuel efficiency of 40 mpg, was a bit similar to the Camry, and it cost $19,995. Toyota managed to sell 123,000 units of the first generation Prius. This model was being compared to the Honda Insight, which was the only other hybrid vehicle in America at the time. The Prius had a more comfortable interior than the Insight, but the Insight had higher cargo capacity. When it comes to the interior, one of the most distinctive and interesting features was the display that looked a lot like the touch screens that these new vehicles today are equipped with.
The second generation was a 5-door hatchback, that had better aerodynamic capabilities and higher storage capacity, and the hybrid system was much more efficient thanks to the all-electric air-conditioning compressor. Compared to the first generation, this model was safer, due to the new airbag technology, as well as the backup camera, and it was fitted with an LCD screen that had a higher resolution. This model was a real success, as Toyota sold more than 1,192,000 units across the world.
As far as the third generation is concerned, which was launched in 2009, the most notable change was the improved fuel economy, which was rated at 50 mpg, making it the most fuel-efficient hybrid vehicle at the time.
Now, for the 2015 Toyota Prius, Toyota is preparing some major changes that should make it even more eco-friendly and more appealing to younger drivers. The new, redesigned shape will make for better aerodynamic capabilities, and it will be able to reduce drag much better than previous models, increasing fuel efficiency. It will have a more stylish, elegant exterior design, which should make people think of it as a cool, attractive vehicle, instead of a boring family car, which is how most people have perceived it so far. It is expected to be powered by nickel-metal-hydride batteries, which should make it a bit cheaper. Its main competitors in the green vehicle market will be the Chevrolet Volt, the Ford C-Max Hybrid, and the Nissan Leaf. The Prius should be better than the competition when it comes to fuel economy, but it's still a little behind when it comes to performance.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
By Jordan Perch, automotive researcher and blogger at DMV.com.