The October 14, 1997, according to the annals Toyota, the launch of the Prius, hybrid car with a 43 kW 1.5 VVT-i petrol engine capable of running in combination with a 30 kW electric powertrain. Bingo: with this system emissions were halved and distances increased. The Toyota Prius NHW10 was introduced in Japan with the slogan “Just in time for the 21st century”, and indeed it has been a pioneer. It only arrived in Europe and the United States from 2000. If today Toyota is a manufacturer that often appears in the concept of hybrid, it is above all thanks to this car.
Toyota then president Hiroshi Okuda stated: “The Prius is our challenge for the technological revolution: we would like to present a new value for the automotive industry in view of the 21st century“. The car, in the corridors of the Toyota offices, had already been talked about since 1993. The goal of the first projects that sprang up in the Prius (in Latin ‘previous’) was to improve fuel efficiency by 1.5 times over traditional cars.
Satoshi Ogiso, a member of the development team of essentially all Prius, recalls how the first tests, in 1995, did not go too well: “During testing we knew that the prototypes did not have good fuel efficiency. In fact, the fuel efficiency was worse than a standard Corolla. The new equipment we were adding used a lot of electricity for cooling. The electrical load was about three times that of a normal car, which reduced fuel efficiency. Finding ways to reduce the load was a difficult task“. Excessive vibrations occurred while driving when the engine restarted after a complete stop. “We had a lot of problems to solve. Just when we were solving one, another would pop up and we didn’t see how we could meet mass production in two years. It was then that we turned to a development method called simultaneous engineering (SE) to speed up processes. It was a way to solve many problems at the same time. We partnered with manufacturing engineering divisions to prepare the car for mass production, even from a stage where the car was not running properly“. The engineers were several times close to throwing in the towel.
The potential of the car, however, convinced the technicians and management to continue, and so a few weeks after the presentation on October 14 in Tokyo the consumption targets were reached. From then on the road became less winding. And with four generations it has gone through various technical improvements, up to the lengthening of the mileage (in the Japanese cycle) to 40.8 km / l and the reduction of emissions up to 70 g / km. The third generation was the one of the records: at its debut in 2009 it obtained 180 thousand orders, against the 10 thousand expected by the management.
The popularity of the Toyota Prius was also driven by the presence on the Los Angeles Boulevard of several models that belonged to some Hollywood stars., who wanted to show themselves next to a car considered ‘friendly’ to the environment. Prius has even become a name inserted in some comic sketches. At one point it seemed that everyone was leading this model: we particularly mention Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ryan Gosling, Cameron Diaz, Julia Roberts, Natalie Portman, Jennifer Aniston and Demi Moore. In short, a star among the cars.