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2010 Toyota Prius at the 2009 NAIAS in Detroit
Defending leadership from an advancing competition

2010 Toyota Prius hybrid midsize passenger car: front driving view.

2010 Prius: one million Prius sold in 44 countries since 1997.


23 January 2009.


For the 2009 North American International Auto Show (public days 17-25 January), each of the top two Japanese car manufacturers brought the all-new generation of its midsize hybrid passenger car.

Toyota, the world largest carmaker unveiled the 2010 Prius, and Honda, the number two automaker in Japan premiered its 2010 Insight (more about the 2010 Insight).

2010 Toyota Prius hybrid midsize passenger car: rear view.

2010 Prius: hybrids can also be attractive and practical.

If hybrid cars sales were rather niche oriented first, the growing competition from Ford Motor Company, General Motors and others will not necessarily hurt the Prius. Quite the opposite: just like Prius changed the face of the hybrid passenger car from a social or political statement of early adopters, to a rational family car in many homes, the diversification of the hybrid car offers from many brands will help make this technology more mainstream and cheaper.

2010 Toyota Prius hybrid midsize passenger car: dashboard view.

Featured optional voice-activated navigation system.

Of course, there is always the energy price argument. But despite its recent price drop, it is doubtful that last year's colossal surge of oil prices will fade away from memories... at least before a few years time. And that will probably be enough to make hybrids as mainstream as conventional cars.

Even if oil prices remain low for quite a long time, who can guarantee that taxes on energy will not climb gradually, to better protect the environment, that's officially, and rather to compensate for some of the hundreds of billions of public money that are poured down to treat what can be treated from the financial crisis consequences?

2010 Toyota Prius hybrid midsize passenger car: front seats.

Versatility in the cabin and trunk (boot).

It really seems now that hybrid cars are here for some time.

Targets - While Honda aims for annual sales of 200,000 Insights globally, the Prius global sales objective is about 400,000 units per year, by 2010... depending on market conditions, as Toyota adds carefully, considering the still unfolding world economic crisis.

Twelve years ago, Prius went on sale in Japan. Three years later, it was launched in America with a modest sales goal of 12,000 units, growing to more than 100,000 units in 2005, before ending last year with nearly 160,000 units sold. Today, some 700,000 Prius cars are in operation in the U.S. alone.

In fact, Prius has become the world's best-selling hybrid car, with more than one million sold in 44 countries. Today's plans are to sell the third-generation Prius in eighty countries worldwide, getting it closer to the top of Toyota's best-selling vehicles around the world, along with Camry and Corolla.

If the symbolic choice of the Latin name Prius meant “to go before”, then, it did it well, and globally.

2010 Toyota Prius hybrid midsize passenger car: steering wheel switches.

When the driver touches a switch on the steering wheel, a duplicate image is displayed on the instrument panel.

Sales of the 2010 Prius will start in Japan and the U.S. in late spring (prices to be announced nearer to market launch), followed shortly by other countries (summer in Europe). Current sales target for Prius' first full calendar year in the U.S. will be around 180,000 units. Toyota's declared plans are to have a hybrid powertrain option for every model they sell in the 2020s.

To achieve its hungry ambitions, the new Prius brings more interior room in a similarly size body, a refined hybrid system, better performance and more advanced standard and optional features, including a moonroof with solar panels, four driving modes, intelligent parking assist (IPA, previously only available on Lexus vehicles), steering wheel touch controls that display on the instrument panel, a pre-collision system and lane-keep assist with a lane-departure warning function.

2010 Toyota Prius hybrid midsize passenger car: stylish gear knob for a shift-by-wire transmission.

Stylish gearknob, with shift-by-wire command transmission.

Safety Connect, Toyota's first safety and security service that includes automatic collision notification, stolen vehicle locator, and an SOS call button will be available a few months following launch.

Body - Whereas overall dimensions remain almost identical to the second generation, interior space gained more than five cubic feet (141.5 litres).

The new Prius has the same wheelbase as the current generation. Overall length is slightly increased by 0.6 inches (1.5 cm), in part by moving the front cowl forward.

The overall height is the same, but the roof profile is altered by moving the top of the roof 3.9 inches (9.9 cm) to the rear, to enhance rear headroom and improve aerodynamics.

By focusing on the shape of the body, underfloor, wheelhouse liner and shape of the wheels, the designers of the new Prius reduced the drag coefficient (Cd) value to 0.25, compared to 0.26 for the previous model.

The cargo area of the new Prius was expanded 0.4 inches (1 cm) in length and 2.2 inches (5.58 cm) in width by using a new layout of the battery cooling unit.

2010 Toyota Prius hybrid midsize passenger car: storage space under the console.

Storage under the console, thanks to the shift-by-wire gearshift.

Handy storage space (opposite photo) has been added under the shift lever by taking advantage of the shift-by-wire system. Touch sensors on the steering wheel switches help to enhance the driver's concentration. When he / she touches the audio or info switch located on the steering wheel, a duplicate image is displayed on the instrument panel, directly in front of his / her eyes. Called the Touch Tracer, this is the first system to allow steering wheel controls to read out on the instrument panel.

Hybrid Synergy Drive - Toyota developed its full-hybrid system in-house. In 2004, it introduced the Hybrid Synergy Drive System on the second-generation Prius, of which more than 670,000 have been sold in the U.S.

The powertrain of the third-generation Prius is 90-percent newly-developed with significant improvements over the previous generation.

2010 Toyota Prius hybrid midsize passenger car: Hybrid Synergy Drive.

Powertrain of the 3rd-generation: 90% newly developed.

On the internal combustion engine side, the new Prius adopts a larger and more powerful 1.8-litre (1.5-litre previously) Atkinson-cycle, four-cylinder engine with 98 horsepower (76 previously). It is the first Toyota power plant that requires no belts under the hood, getting better fuel economy and less potential maintenance. Toyota considers that in this case, the larger engine helps improve highway mileage. By making more torque, the new engine can run at lower average rpm on the highway, for more relaxed driving, better fuel efficiency, and improved uphill performance. Mileage is especially improved in cold-start conditions and at higher speeds.

Hybrid components like the inverter, motor and generator are now smaller and lighter. An exhaust heat recovery system, exhaust gas recirculation and an electric water pump contribute to a more efficient hybrid system with a net horsepower rating of 134 (110 previously).

While the first-generation Prius was rated at 41 EPA (U.S. Environment Protection Agency) combined miles per U.S. gallon (49.2 mpg, imperial, 5.74 litres/ 100 km), the current model, which is EPA rated at 46 mpg (55.2 mpg, imperial, 5.11 litres/ 100 km), combined city/highway. Now, fuel efficiency has been increased to an estimated 50 miles per gallon (60 mpg, imperial, 4.7 litres/ 100 km) for the new Prius.

In Toyota's internal testing, zero-to-60 mph (0-96.5 km/h) acceleration has been improved to 9.8 seconds, about a second faster than in the 2nd-generation Prius.

A multi-information display panel that monitors fuel and energy consumption is standard. It provides feedback on the Prius’ efficiency using three different displays to encourage economical driving habits.

2010 Toyota Prius hybrid midsize passenger car: navigation and other function monitor.

Screen interface to control several functions.

Prius has been a “full” hybrid since introduction. This allows it to run on the gasoline engine alone, the battery alone, or a combination of both, combining advantages of both parallel hybrid and series hybrid designs to achieve the ability to operate on the electric mode alone, and to charge the batteries while the car is running.

The Hybrid Synergy Drive system in the 2010 Prius improvements over previous models includes:

- A lighter transaxle which reduces torque losses by as much as 20 percent compared to the previous model,
- the inverter, which converts direct current to alternating current, has a new direct cooling system to reduce size and weight,
- taken together, the inverter, motor and transaxle are smaller and 20 percent lighter,
- a newly developed electronically controlled regenerative braking system has been adopted, with control logic optimized to enhance regeneration.

2010 Toyota Prius hybrid midsize passenger car: buttons for EV-Drive mode, Eco Mode and Power mode.

Buttons to select EV-Drive Mode, Eco Mode or Power Mode.

The new Prius will offer three alternative driving modes:

1 - EV-Drive Mode (see opposite photo) allows driving on battery power alone at low speeds for about a mile, if conditions permit,
2 - Power Mode increases sensitivity to throttle input for a sportier feel,
3 - Eco Mode to help achieve their best mileage.

Suspension and brakes - The suspension consists of front struts and a rear intermediate beam design, as before, but handling stability is advanced by improving the stabilizer layout, higher caster angle and tuning the bushing characteristics. Disc brakes are now used on all four wheels (front disc/rear drum brakes in the 2nd generation).

Weight was saved through use of aluminium in the hood, rear hatch, front suspension axle and brake calliper and super high-tensile steel in the B-pillar and roof reinforcement.

2010 Toyota Prius hybrid midsize passenger car: solar panels on the sliding moonroof.

Optional sliding glass moonroof packaged with solar panels, over the rear seating area, to power the new ventilation system.

Equipment and options - An optional sliding glass moonroof is packaged with solar panels, located over the rear seating area, to power the new ventilation system. This solar powered ventilation system uses an electrically powered air circulation fan that does not require engine assist. The system prevents the interior air temperature from rising while the vehicle is parked, making the cool-down time shorter when the driver returns to the vehicle, thus reducing the use of air conditioning.

Toyota says that the remote air-conditioning system of the new Prius is the first system in the world to function on battery-power alone. It can be remotely operated to adjust the interior temperature for comfort before getting in the car.

Available LED (light emitting diode) lamps are used for low beams and also in the tail and stop lamps to reduce power consumption. Air conditioning, a major energy drain, has been re-engineered to increase efficiency and cool-down performance. In addition, an exhaust heat recirculation system reduces heat waste by warming engine coolant during cold startup, for improved performance. It also heats up the passenger cabin more efficiently.

2010 Toyota Prius hybrid midsize passenger car: headlight.

2010 Toyota Prius hybrid midsize passenger car: LED tail light.

Available LED lamps for low beams and in the tail and stop lamps.

Toyota will use plant-derived, carbon-neutral plastics in the 2010 Prius. The newly-developed plastics, known as “ecological plastic,” will be used in the seat cushion foam, cowl side trim, inner and outer scuff plates, and deck trim cover. Ecological plastic emits less CO2 during the product lifecycle (from manufacturing to disposal) than plastic made solely from petroleum, while reducing in the same time petroleum use.

Safety equipment - Standard passive safety equipment includes advanced driver and front passenger airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags, driver and passenger seat-mounted side airbags and driver’s knee airbag.

Active headrests are used in the front seats to reduce whiplash risks in a collision. Anti-lock brake system (ABS), electronic brake distribution (EBD), brake assist (BA), electronic traction control (TRAC) and vehicle stability control (VSC) are included with Toyota’s standard Star Safety System.

The optional Dynamic Radar Cruise Control system, which uses advanced millimetre wave radar, enables Lane Keep Assist, which helps the driver stay within the lane, and the Pre-Collision System, which retracts seatbelts and applies the brakes in certain conditions when a crash is unavoidable.

The new Intelligent Parking Assist features simplified settings to help guide the car into parking spaces. A backup monitor, which provides a view of rear obstacles when reverse is engaged, is optionally available with the also optional voice-activated navigation system.

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