Some two decades ago, Toyota set the bar for what hybrid vehicle technology could and should be. They dubbed their new creation the Prius, a name now synonymous with hybrid-electric technology. Upon its release, the Prius was the first production hybrid car. With 20 years of innovation in the rearview mirror, the Prius is still going strong today, with over 1.9 million vehicles sold as of last year.
Toyota Prius 2020 Edition
Toyota recently unveiled a new commemorative addition to the Prius line for 2021. The Toyota Prius 2020 edition will be offered in Supersonic Red and Windchill Pearl. Both feature a color-keyed rear spoiler, striking black exterior trim, and black wheel inserts. However, despite its sporty appearance, the Prius 2020 Edition retains its fuel-efficient characteristics, offering a Toyota-estimated 54/50 city/highway mpg.
Toyota Prius: New & Improved for 2021
Light was also shed on what consumers can expect out of Toyota’s standard 2021 Prius offerings. The latest rendition of the Prius will feature Toyota’s new Safety Sense 2.0 package, which includes pre-collision detection, lane departure alert, road sign assist, and automatic high beams.
The 2021 Prius serves as a further extension to Toyota’s continued bid toward enhanced sustainability. Much of the Prius’ efficiency is owed to its aerodynamic form, featuring an ultra-low 0.24 drag coefficient.
However, the Prius’ powertrain is the heart of its sustainable platform. The combination of a 1.8-liter four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle gasoline engine, two motor generators, and an electronically controlled CVT transmission serve as the source of the Prius’ fuel-conservative functionality.
The Prius also offers consumers spacious cabin accommodations, with front-wheel drive models totaling 50.7 cubic feet of available cargo space. Additional cabin features include a seven-inch touchscreen display, six-speaker AM/FM stereo, CD player, and navigation.
20 Years of Efficiency
As the hybrid and EV sector continues to grow every year, the Prius has remained an innovative force throughout its 20 years of production. During the past two decades and four subsequent generations, the Prius has seen much change, serving as an ever-evolving vision of the potential of hybrid technology.
When the Prius arrived in the American market for the 2001 model year, few had seen a level of efficiency like that of Toyota’s revolutionary hybrid. The use of a 70-horsepower gasoline engine, 44-horsepower electric drive motor, and secondary electric generator provided the Prius with practical daily driving performance while also ensuring the car’s powerful nickel-metal hydride battery stayed charged.
The first-generation Prius also utilized an auto stop/start system, which shuts off the vehicle’s gasoline engine when stopped for longer than several seconds. This technology has since been employed by numerous manufacturers, both in hybrid and non-hybrid vehicles. These early Prius hybrids were capable of achieving 42/41 city/highway mpg.
2001 Toyota Prius Cutaway. Photo: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.
With the 2004 model year, the now-iconic hybrid line gained its identity, so to speak. A new roomy, liftgate-style body was introduced, which laid the template from which all Prius hybrids would be modeled after going forward.
Additional changes included a new brake-by-wire system to improve safety and stopping ability, as well as the introduction of an all-electric a/c compressor, which cycled even when the car’s gas engine was not in use. The second-generation Prius offered 46 combined mpg.
The third-generation Prius was most notable for its continued increase in fuel economy, as the car now mustered an impressive 50 combined mpg. Additional Prius models also arrived. The Prius C was a new and more compact offering with a conservative price point to match. The more sizable Prius V offered additional cabin space and was comparable in stature to many crossover vehicles of its day.
The Prius’ fourth-generation design is based upon Toyota’s New Global Architecture-K platform and is the most efficient Prius to date. Also introduced were Toyota’s Prius Prime plug-in hybrid (PHEV), the Prius L ECO, and the Prius AWD-e.
Josh Boyd is an ASE Certified technician with over a decade of experience in automotive repair. When not under the hood, he can be found in the woods or on the water, pursuing his other passions of hunting and fishing.