When it comes to eco-friendly driving options, few models come to mind, as commonly as the Toyota Prius. As an innovator in hybrid technology, Toyota’s early entrance into the sustainable market with the first Prius prototype not only revolutionized the automotive industry but also sparked a historical, societal shift towards eco-conscious living. In fact, the automotive eco-generation owes a lot to the Prius, from its humble beginnings as the poster child for green auto technology all the way to becoming the vehicle of choice for ride-share drivers across North America. In this blog post, we’ll explore the rise, evolution and prominence of the Toyota Prius since its unveiling back in 1995.
It was in 1993, when in-house discussions over a "vehicle for the 21st century" intensified, that the development that led to the Prius got underway. With the improvement of engine efficiency as its primary objective, Toytoa set a target of raising fuel efficiency performance to 1.5 times the level of that of conventional engines. Eventually, the team settled on a concept vehicle with a hybrid format that offered the prospect of doubling fuel efficiency. In addition to radically improving the efficiency of the engine and driving system, functions such as energy regeneration and stopping the engine while the vehicle is stationary were also employed.
By 1997, the first-generation Prius was introduced to the market as the world's first mass-produced hybrid passenger vehicle. With a body compact enough to be registered with a 5-series number plate, the first-generation Prius was a stockier sedan than the current generation and held a fuel efficiency rating of 28.0 km/L, equating to 3.6L/ 100km.
In 2003, the Prius underwent its first complete redesign, equipped with the Toyota Hybrid System II. This system came with improvements in its fuel efficiency rating, bringing it to 35.5 km/L (2.8L/100km), thereby cementing the image of the Prius as a truly fuel-efficient vehicle. More enhancements were also made to the vehicle’s design, with the highest point now above the driver's head, gently sloping downwards in what was labelled a "triangle silhouette." This new design not only improved aerodynamics but also established the Prius’ iconic and unique sleek, futuristic styling.
While maintaining the same basic "triangle silhouette" as the second-generation Prius, the hood, headlights, and side view of the new model possessed greater modulation to keep up with an increased interest in aesthetics. By 2009, the third-generation Prius achieved what was then the world's leading 10-15 test cycle fuel efficiency rating at 38.0 km/L (2.6L/100km).
Released in 2015, the Prius’ design had significantly evolved by its 4th generation, particularly as hybrid and electric vehicles from automakers like Hyundai and Telsa crept into the market. Inheriting the "triangle silhouette" design, the 2015-2022 models featured a more aggressive appearance with a lower center of gravity. The new model combined an outstanding fuel efficiency rating of 40.8 km/L (2.4L/100km). This generation also was the first to be released alongside a plug-in Prius Prime, which was unveiled in 2017.
The Prius’ 5th generation model, recently released for the current model year, is a far cry from its humble beginnings nearly 30 years ago. With a thorough redesign inside and out, the current model has been built on the TNGA-C platform, which makes it a leaner eco-friendly compact with a wider stance and lower driving position. A significantly improved driving performance comes from the new 5th-generation hybrid powertrain and standard electric all-wheel-drive system. This Prius also recharges on the go, using innovations like regenerative braking to capture and transform energy into electricity and store it in the battery.
With over 20 million sales worldwide, the Toyota Prius has earned and solidified its place as a legendary, iconic vehicle for a reason. Ready to step towards a more sustainable future and take the current, redesigned model out for a test run? Contact the team at Vernon Toyota, and we’ll be happy to get one started for you and answer any hybrid-related questions you might have!