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Essential Things to Know About the Toyota Prius Hybrid Car

Toyota Prius
Image: Shutterstock

The Toyota Prius is one of the best-known vehicles of the New Millenium, and arguably the most iconic brand of hybrid/electric car to date. Although not exclusively powered with an electrical generator, the use of a generator works in tandem with its four-cylinder gas engine (hence its "hybrid" label) significantly increasing the fuel efficiency while lowering the ecological footprint. Although a hybrid vehicle may have been a tougher sell when the first Prius was introduced in 1997, skyrocketing gas prices and environmental awareness have only helped the market demand for affordable hybrid vehicles. Whether you're simply interested about this iconic brand, or are even thinking of purchasing a model yourself, here's a quick scoop on the Prius with the basics you might care to know either way.

The development of the Toyota Prius

Toyota first unveiled the Prius for sales in the final quarter of 1997. The marketing and availability was initially focused in Japan. Although criticisms of oil and environmental consciousness were already on the rise at that point, it wouldn't be until a few years later where the market would really open up for a hybrid vehicle like the Prius.

Drawing the name of their latest design from the Latin word meaning "primary" or "original," Toyota created the Prius as a hopeful trailblazer for more ecologically sustainable vehicles in the future. With competition now like Honda with their own Accord series, the Toyota Prius has seen fit to improve its key features with each latest incarnation. The latest fourth generation (2016-), for example, has improved the fuel efficiency ratio past the 40% mark, compared to the third generation's 38.5%.

As the Prius has developed over time, its design has favored an increasingly sleek and sporty appearance, simultaneously improving its own reputation and even fuel efficiency via the improved aerodynamics. In 2011, Toyota opened up their Prius brand into a family of similar models, from the standard Prius hatchback to the extended Prius v wagon. Although Toyota's hybrid roster has blown up since the Prius' inauguration, it still accounts for over half of the hybrid cars the company has sold overall.

The features of the Toyota Prius

Since Toyota's decision to diversify the selection of Prius models in 2011, there are a few types of Prius now to consider. The standard Prius is now called the Prius hatchback, while the Prius C and Prius V offered compact and expanded versions of the vehicle respectively. The Prius Plug-in Hybrid (PHV) is a newer type of model that improves the role and capacity of the car's battery and motor. These models are all roughly similar in nature to another; however, the standard hatchback model is easily the most popular.

The Prius uses an Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine along with an electrical motor to power itself. Although it still uses gasoline like regular cars, the motor picks up the slack for a lot of the engine, thereby reducing a lot of the gas needed to run it. As of yet, the latest Prius model reports impressive fuel mileage up to 58 miles per gallon. This whopping statistic puts it at the top of its class with regards to efficiency. What's more, if the vehicle is running in "EV" mode, the car can actually travel up to a mile without using any gas at all! The latest Prius models come equipped with standard LED headlamps, further improving fuel efficiency all the while benefitting the late models' sleeker look. For bigger spenders, there are enough add-ons to make the Prius into a veritable luxury vehicle, from a state-of-the-art heads-up display to side laminated glass, rain sensing automatic wipers to pure comfort options like softex seats and heated seating panels.

One striking difference about the Prius compared to regular cars is its relative quietness. This is due to the electric motor not being nearly as loud as a traditional internal combustion engine. However, this quietness has resulted in controversy, particularly regarding vision-impaired pedestrians who may rely on engine noise to gauge safety. As a result, later-era Priuses in the United States have been outfitted with a warning bleeper that sounds whenever the vehicle is running at least than 15/mph, as well a reverse beep.

The reception to the Toyota Prius

The Toyota Prius has been consistently lauded as one of the most fuel-efficient and clean cars on the open market. Unsurprisingly, the rise of the Prius' popularity has had a lot to do with world history. Skyrocketing prices of fuel beginning in the 2000s pushed many to seek an option that could go easy on the gas intake. Perhaps just as importantly, increasing awareness for environmental concerns made driving a clean car like the Prius into a symbol of ethical consumption and social chic. This had given rise to the image of the Prius as a socio-cultural icon, particularly in Hollywood, where some eco-conscious celebrities have taken to driving them to spread awareness. Ironically, some well-known US conservatives have opted for Priuses as well, this time instead as a statement against a dependence on foreign oil.

Governments in particular have been very warm towards the Prius, often making the car a staple in various nations' state car fleets. Governments and private companies (like Google and Hyperion Solutions) have offered considerable subsidies to consumers and employees who wish to buy a Prius. On the other hand, some negative propaganda against the Prius has surfaced, namely in the form of market studies supposedly "debunking" the Prius' efficiency and eco-footprint. One study, conducted by CNW Marketing Research, claimed that a 2005 Prius was ultimately less efficient than the Hummer H2 after you factor in the costs of making it. However this, and many other anti-hybrid campaigns, have been thoroughly dismissed by other third-party research groups.

What's the plural of Toyota Prius?

In 2011, leading up to the expansion of the Prius family into multiple models, Toyota sponsored a poll to get consumers to decide what the plural of "Prius" would be. The winning answer was "Prii." However, it is still considered proper form to refer to the pluralized form as "Priuses."

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
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