Although I admire electric and hybrid vehicles as development platforms and objects of curiosity, I’m not sold on their worthiness as vehicles for mass production and mass transit – at least not yet. That being said, I’m also willing to render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, to give credit where credit is due, and the 2004 Toyota Prius is, by all accounts, an exceptional automobile. I simply think it is more ecologically-friendly to develop highly efficient petrol and diesel engines, not to mention a lot cheaper. The Toyota Prius, because it doesn’t rely on Government handouts to turn a profit, is different and deserving of credit. It is a marvel of technologically-assisted comfort, and the first car to offer as part of its standard equipment an air-conditioning system independent of the engine, allowing for cool comfort even when running on batteries.
The Prius, as a hybrid vehicle, is powered by a 1.5-liter DOHC straight-four petrol engine, paired with a 500V electric motor. Performance is far from electrifying – pun intended – with a 10 second 0-60 time and a top speed of 105 miles per hour, but that’s hardly the point. What’s important about the Prius is that it is easy to drive, cheap to operate and because of its low emissions, it makes you feel like you are part of the solution rather than part of the problem. Whether that’s actually the case remains to be seen.
The success of the Toyota Prius has emboldened other manufacturers in offering electric and hybrid vehicles, propelled in part by the great strides that have been made in battery performance. Most other models, however, are petrol cars converted to hybrid systems, and don’t offer the kind of so-called ‘green’ performance seen in the Prius.