Pioneering New Technologies - Fully electric operation

For the first time in a hybrid car, the driver can use the EV (Electric Vehicle) driving mode simply by pressing a button on the dashboard. This allows the exclusive use of the electric motor to power the vehicle, producing zero emissions and very low noise – ideal when city commuting. The EV driving mode can be used for up to 1.25 miles with a maximum speed of 30mph.

Electric air conditioning

The Prius is the first production car to adopt an all-electric air-conditioning system. It is equipped with an electric-inverter compressor driven by an alternating current provided by the A/C inverter, which is built into the inverter of the hybrid system. As a result, the air conditioning system operates independently of the engine, so helping to reduce fuel consumption. A humidity sensor function has been added to the system’s room temperature sensor in order to optimise the amount of dehumidification effort during operation. A compact, lightweight, and highly efficient electrical water pump has also been adopted, to ensure proper heater performance while the engine is stopped.

Drive-by-wire functions

Many of the new technologies used in the Prius – some unique to the car and world firsts – have been made possible by Toyota’s bold move to redefine the vehicle’s powertrain and electrical architecture. The higher voltages created by the batteries and converter have enabled Toyota’s engineers to equip the Prius with a far larger suite of ‘drive-by-wire’ technologies than has previously been seen in any production car. Throttle, transmission and braking are all electronically controlled and free of the traditional mechanical linkages.

Braking and body control systems

ABS, EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution) and a new version of the Vehicle Stability Control system, called VSC+, operate through an electric/electronic circuit. A central electronic brain, the Skid Control ECU, co-ordinates all these systems to create perfect synergy between them. The VSC+ works in conjunction with the electric power steering system in emergency situations, making it possible to improve vehicle reaction times and so help avoid or minimise the impact of accidents.

Voice recognition

New Prius benefits from voice recognition functions for the audio system, air conditioning and satellite navigation, letting the driver keep his or her attention on the road instead of having to adjust control buttons. The system has been designed to respond to an extensive command list. The versatility of the navigation system, fitted as standard to the T Spirit model, allows it to react immediately to commands: for example, the spoken command "hotel" will produce a list of hotels in the neighbourhood, to which a route can be automatically programmed.

Driver distraction is further reduced by the location of more control functions on the steering wheel than ever before. Sixteen functions for audio, ventilation, voice recognition activation and, where fitted, telephone systems are all positioned on the steering wheel pad, right in front of the driver.

continues... | Part Five

Published : 03/12/03 Author : Melanie Carter

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