15 Years Ago Today - Environmental Adventurers First to Cross the U.S. in a Hybrid-Electric Car
Found in The Auto Channel News Archive - 9 July 1999
NEW YORK, July 9 -- An intrepid band of Japanese adventurers and environmental enthusiasts arrived in New York City today aboard the historic Staten Island Ferry, having successfully completed a 4,200-mile, cross-continent trip in the world's first mass produced hybrid-electric car. Their arrival marked the first time that a hybrid car has crossed the U.S.
Team ACP, accompanied by a Japanese TV crew, began their trek in Torrance, Calif., on June 4 and traveled across the southern tier of the U.S. until they reached New Orleans, then zig-zagged through Kentucky and Washington, D.C., up to Toronto, Canada, and circled Lake Ontario before turning south to traverse New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Along the way, they visited environmental groups and observed ecology projects from coast to coast.
The effort, called Eco-Mission '99, was led by Paris-to-Dakar rally driver Kiichiro Yokota. The team consisted of eight people plus two support vehicles and included a navigator, translator, mechanic and the TV crew. Their hybrid car was the Toyota Prius (PREE-us) sedan, which is powered by both an electric motor and a small gasoline engine.
A sophisticated computer system allows the 5-passenger Prius to run on either electricity or gasoline alone, or a combination of both, depending on vehicle speed and load. Because the gasoline engine is off much of the time, the Prius can achieve fuel economy of over 60 miles-per-gallon, while cutting pollution emissions by 90 percent. The gasoline engine recharges the battery pack, so the Prius never needs to be plugged in for long periods of time, unlike other electric vehicles.
The opposite of conventional cars, Prius achieves its best fuel economy in stop-and-go city driving. Over 27,000 have been sold in Japan since the hybrid was introduced in December, 1997. Prius will be sold by Toyota dealers in the U.S. next year.
Eco-Mission '99 was sponsored by Toyota Motor Corp., Nippon Iridium Corp., Japan Airlines and Tokyo Toyota Motor Co., Ltd.