Toyota announced today that the Toyota Prius, the world's first mass-produced petrol-electric hybrid vehicle, has passed a significant milestone with more than 500,000 sold around the world. Prius was launched in Japan in late 1997 and its sales success encouraged its launch in the US and Europe in 2000 and Australia in 2001.
Sales have exceeded 280,000 in the US, 200,000 in Japan and 40,000 in Europe. In Australia, Prius is the best-selling vehicle of its type with more than 4334 sales to 31 August 2006.
The first-generation Prius, available in limited numbers to Australian buyers, gained an immediate following, particularly among environmentally conscious consumers. The second-generation model, launched in late 2003, provided more interior space and more power from Hybrid Synergy Drive II, Toyota's newest hybrid technology.
Sales in Australia increased markedly to 1094 units in 2004 and 1423 in 2005. Further refinements introduced last year included a reversing camera on the i-TECH model – the first Toyota vehicle in Australia with this feature.
Prius also gained easier-to-read instruments, a new front mask, new exterior colours and improved audio systems. Sales this year have increased to 1187 units (to 31 August), up 29.9 per cent on the same stage last year.
Worldwide, sales of Toyota hybrid vehicles have exceeded 600,000 units. Toyota's hybrid system means Prius uses up to 50 per cent less petrol than an equivalent-sized conventional car and emits about half the carbon dioxide.
Fuel economy is just 4.4 litres /100km (tested to ADR 81/01 under controlled factory conditions). Prius seamlessly combines the power of an electric motor with a 1.5-litre VVT-i Atkinson Cycle petrol engine. It delivers 57kW of power at 5000rpm and 115Nm of torque at 4000rpm. The petrol engine automatically switches off when the car is stationary or coasting.
Energy that is not required to propel the car is converted to electricity and stored in a sealed 201.6-volt battery, for use when required. Regenerative braking allows the vehicle to convert kinetic energy into additional electricity.
A unique electronically controlled continuously variable transmission allows the car to drive as a seamless automatic. Prius is a fully specified five-door liftback, capable of seating five adults comfortably. It requires no special training to drive, does not require external charging, uses 91 RON unleaded fuel and has 456 litres of luggage capacity.