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Natural Awakenings Dallas -Fort Worth Metroplex Edition


The Hybrid that Started it All

Apr 02, 2013 06:29PM

The Latin word prius means “coming before,” which makes it an appropriate name for the car that began the automotive industry’s move to hybrids. The Toyota Prius, which debuted in Japan in 1997, was the first mass-produced hybrid vehicle. It was introduced worldwide four years later and is sold in 40 countries today.

In the United States, it was first classified as a Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle. Today the description reads Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emission Vehicle (AT-PZEV) from the California Air Resources Board and other states adopting California’s stringent emissions guidelines. There are now four models of the Prius, averaging around 50 miles per gallon, and Toyota claims the car has saved 16 million tons of CO2 emissions since 2000.

To qualify as a leader in eco-transport means using innovations such as the synergy drive—also called combined drive or series-parallel drive—which can be propelled by a gasoline engine, electric motor or a combination of both. Prius starts and moves on battery power, but if the battery gets low or if the car senses it needs more power than the battery can provide, the gas engine takes over to both propel the vehicle and recharge the battery. It requires no charging station, no waiting for charging and no chance of being caught short on battery power. When idling, the battery powers the vehicle’s accessories, and air conditioning.

“Technology, fuel savings, low emissions and other electric vehicle details are not the only features that should be considered when buying a hybrid,” says Marckwardt. “It should be reliable mainstream car that you can live with. The cargo space of Prius, for example, is about what you would find in a compact SUV, 21.6 cubic feet.”

Even comfort features like air conditioning can be eco-friendly notes Stephane Burress, the director of “A roof with embedded solar panels can power a circulating fan when you park in direct sunlight. Also, a remote system can activate the compressor and run the air conditioner for a few minutes, so it is comfortable when you get in.”

Craig Marckwardt, area retail development manager for Gulf States Toyota Distributor, Inc. and a hybrid specialist, spotlights another important feature, regenerative braking. “In layman’s terms, regenerative braking uses motor/generators to convert the energy of forward motion into electrical energy that can be stored in the system battery for more electric motor operation and fuel savings, also reducing wear on the brake pads.”

For more information call 817-310-8110 or visit See ad on page 5.

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