2004 Toyota PriusBehold Intelligent Transportation
I emerged from my home contemplating a grocery list. The car sensors
detected when I walked up and unlocked itself. Pushing the POWER button
, the car silently started. A touch of throttle and the 6 block trip beg
an. 15 minutes later I was back home. I had not used a drop of gasoline
- and each time I coasted or used the brakes, I was refueling.
It would be incomplete to say that the Prius is powered by a 76-horsepower, 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine along with an electric motor that puts out 50 kilowatts for another 67 horsepower. When it comes to torque and acceleration the engines can work together to produce a turbo-charged-like effect that is quite satisfying. Merging onto a freeway or passing slower traffic is no problem. Frequent stops at a gas station are no longer needed as the Prius is at the head of the class with 60 mpg in town and 51 on the highway. The transition between electric and combustive power cannot be felt and can barely be heard during all normal driving. And let us not forget that if you are living in a metropolitan area, the "exhaust" from the Prius is cleaner than the air going in. The interior has grown from last year, expanding the Prius into the 4-door mid-sized sedan. Cool new items included LCD instrument display tucked deep into nifty little cave way, way up in the front of the dash. Finally, a mid-day sun proof LCD. The second is the shifter which is really a "selector", a nifty little L-shaped lever that you use to choose a gear - including the "B" gear for downhill compression.
So why, you may wonder, is the electric system so improved? I wondered too until legendary PR guy Michael Dobrin (who handles the Toyota press fleet for the west coast) replied:
"The first edition Prius vehicles were equipped with a pack of round D-cell type batteries. Internally and technically these batteries with their individual round plates were only as good as the surface area of the smallest plates. Individual batteries in the new Prius battery pack are square and have greatly improved wiring and current distribution than the older round batteries. They are smaller and save weight. The new Prius is also equipped with a sophisticated inverter that doubles current output."
So how, I also wondered, do these rechargable batteries avoid bad "memory" (like cell phone & laptop batteries)?
"Prius batteries are nickel metal hydride and are not susceptible to memory issues found on older NICAD batteries. In fact, the Prius nickel metal hydride batteries operate with a full range of charges without memory issues: they’re never fully charged nor fully discharged." I thought that perhaps last years test was a fluke - so many people from so many walks of life were so eager to try the Prius and knew so much about it. No fluke, it seems. This year the response was equally diverse and intense. So for all the flash and dash about "performance" in new cars, and all the posh and plush in the luxury and SUVs, there is growning interest and enthusiasm in intelligent transportation - and the leader of that pack is the 2004 Toyota Prius.
- Mark Fulmer, Editor
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