Toyota Hits 50 Mpg with New Prius

Jan. 13, 2009
Production will be ramped up to 400,000 cars annually

Toyota reaffirmed its leadership in fuel economy on Jan. 12 with the launch of its third generation Prius hybrid car, raising the bar to a whopping 50-mile-per gallon on the road. At the 2009 North American International Auto show, the new catchphrase has been fuel efficiency. So it was no surprise that the world debut of the new 2010 Prius was touted as the show's "the most important vehicle announcement" and was among the most well-attended.

Toyota vice-president of sales Bob Carter said production is to be ramped up to 400,000 cars annually, and sales expanded to 80 countries.

Sales of hybrids are currently down, "very much like the rest of the industry," he said. "But quite frankly, back three or four months ago (when gasoline prices skyrocketed), the consumer realized that this was a precursor to what is coming in the U.S. in the future."

But "MPG (miles per gallon) is still one of the first considerations for a car buyer," said Carter.

Since its launch in 1997, one million Prius have been sold worldwide. The first model boasted 41 miles per gallon. Its successor 46 mpg.The new model's superior gas mileage is due to "its unique shape, larger engine and unique hybrid components," Carter said.

Designers reduced its drag coefficient a notch to 0.25 by studying extensively the airflow under the car and re-shaping the undercarriage. A sliding glass moonroof with solar panels, located over the rear seating area, powers its ventilation system. Light emitting diode lamps are used for its low beams, tail and stop lamps to reduce power consumption. The result is a roomier, faster Prius with sharper edges, and packed with perks normally found in luxury vehicles.

Toyota held more than 300 patents for unique technologies for its first Prius. The new model is linked to more than 1,000 patents, Carter noted.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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