Toyota's 2004 Prius petrol and electric hybrid is the first second-generation hybrid car and one which is expected to challenge Honda's Insight for the title of the world's most fuel-efficient car.The Prius uses a 50kW electric motor that is more than 50 percent more powerful than the previous model, and with similar performance to many current petrol-engined small cars. The 2004 Prius is the first Toyota vehicle equipped with its next generation drive-train, named "Hybrid Synergy Drive" which offers greater power and fuel economy with extremely low emissions. The Hybrid Synergy Drive integrates all aspects of Prius' hybrid system, from the proper mix of the electric motor and gas engine for optimum performance and efficiency, to the regeneration of electricity via Prius unique braking system. Regenerative braking is a feature of hybrid vehicles that allows the motor to act as a generator when braking.
It converts the kinetic energy of the car's motion into electric energy that recharges the battery, further increasing the hybrid's fuel economy.The most interesting aspect of the Hybrid Synergy Drive is the use of an electronically controlled CVT. A CVT is a type of transmission with an infinite number of gear ratios, which are always changing depending upon the relative speed of the vehicle and the engine rpm. The ECVT allows the engine and motors to operate at their most efficient points regardless of the vehicle's speed. This provides higher fuel economy and a very smooth acceleration experience, as there is no "shift shock" associated with conventional transmissions.
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The new Prius boasts a host of technological refinements, such as drive-by-wire technology, cruise control, a CD player, a liquid crystal multi-information display, Smart Entry & Start and enhanced Vehicle Stability Control (VSC)."Drive-by-Wire" technology first rose to prominence as "fly-by-wire" in jet aircraft, but the "traditional" element of motorists has been cynical about the technology and it is only in recent times that it has started to appear in very high-end models.
"Drive-by-Wire" replaces mechanical connections with electrical connections to reduce weight and provide more sophisticated responsiveness. Pressing the accelerator tells the on-board computer what speed you want to travel, rather than activating a mechanical throttle directly.The "by-wire" technologies go way beyond an electronically controlled throttle though - electrically assisted gear shifting, steering and braking are all part of the package which replaces their mechanically controlled counterparts.
Other performance-related features include enhanced Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and a standard Anti-lock Brake System (ABS). VSC is a Toyota system that automatically controls the throttle and brakes during emergency stops to reduce skidding. The all-new Prius will be available with enhanced VSC that also alters the steering response to further improve safety.The new Prius will be available in Australia during the fourth quarter of 2003.View gallery - 4 images