Auto Africa preview
dates : 24th October 2004
28th October 2004
research indicates that today there some 740 million cars
on Planet Earth.
That’s a mind-boggling figure, but even more astounding
is a projection that by the year 2020 the number is likely
to almost double, to 1,2 billion.
As much as we love cars and the freedom of expression and
mobility that they offer, no-one can ignore the impact on
Motor manufacturers all over the world are developing
alternate power sources to minimize air pollution, but
right now, it has to be said that Toyota is ahead of the
The Toyota Prius is a fully-fledged production vehicle,
using a hybrid combination of electric and petrol power.
In fact the Prius has been in series production since
Launched in America last year, this latest-generation
Prius was named as Car of the Year in North America for
2004. And it has become the car of choice for many
American celebrities, including our own Charlize Theron,
while Leonardo DiCaprio owns no less than three Prius
Early in 2005 it will go on sale at selected Toyota show
rooms around South Africa.
The Prius will not be cheap, and one should expect the car
to sell in the R300 000 range.
At that price Toyota is no
expecting to sell thousands of Priuses each month, but
management feels there is enough demand amongst intellectuals
and environmentally aware people to make a significant impact
with the car.
Visually the Prius is one of the most exciting cars to come out
of the Toyota stable in recent years.
It has a dramatic sloping roof-line that nevertheless provides
adequate space for five adults.
And despite the large battery located in the rear of the car
there is over 400 litres of luggage capacity’
What’s more the Prius has a full compliment of safety
equipment including front, side and curtain airbags, as well as
all modern luxury features .
A talking point will be the central display console which
provides a seven centimeter touch screen, enabling audio,
climate control and a display monitoring the switch between
electric and petrol engines and the charging of the battery.
The engine packaging is what makes the Prius so viable as a
productionised low pollution car of the future.
The petrol and electric engines are located side by side in the
front engine bay and linked using a combination of electronics
and mechanical systems.
Both engines provide drive through the front wheels and can
operate independently of one another or in concert
So, what’s it like to drive? The answer is "quite
The system the Prius uses is called hybrid synergy drive.
The start-up procedure is very different from a normal car, and
the operation in electric mode is almost completely silent.
The driver uses the electric gearlever switch to select either
neutral, reverse or drive and there is an additional position on
the lever for re-generative braking.
This is selected when descending hills so that the electric
motor converts to a large battery charger to provide additional
charging to the battery.
There is also an "electric only switch located next to the
steering column and this is used when a driver is in heavy
stop-start traffic or underground parking lots, where a
zero-emissions state is required.
There is no clutch lever. The driver simply depresses the
electronic accelerator pedal and the car moves forward.
There are also no gear changes to concern the driver of a Prius.
The transmission is of the CVT or constantly variable type. This
uses a cone and belt system to constantly vary the transmission
ratio so that the petrol engine is always operating in its
maximum torque band
It uses its electric engine as a primary source of power, but
switches seamlessly to petrol propulsion when extra acceleration
Toyota claim overall fuel consumption of just over four litres
per hundred kilometers for the car, with as little as three
litres per hundred kilometers used by the high torque,
low-revving 1,5 litre petrol engine.
Another plus with this system is that there is no need to charge
the battery from a wall outlet. Charging of the hi-tech battery
is carried out using regenerative braking and the petrol engine
to recharge the battery while the car is on the move.
With both petrol and engine engaged through the common
transmission, the car can accelerate to 100 km/h from standstill
in 11 seconds, and run on to a top speed of over 170 km/h.
So the common image some of us have of electric cars behaving
like milk trolleys or forklifts certainly doesn’t apply to the
With fully-fledged fuel cell technology, which will provide
pollution-free driving, still a long way in the future hybrids
like the Prius make a lot of sense.
Car Torque is