What is the Toyota Prius?
The Toyota Prius is the world's first standard-production hybrid-electric vehicle (hence the name, which, in Latin, means "to go before.") The Prius is meant to be a fully usable replacement for a family or fleet vehicle. It gains fuel economy through clever use of technology, rather than through downsizing, so it is a comfortable family car - no pitiful acceleration, shaking and rattling, or impossible-to-fit-in dimensions. The Prius is proof that you do not need to give up comfort, speed, reliability, and space to get good gas mileage.
Even the first-generation Prius remains a better deal than the new Honda Civic hybrid, since it is larger inside, more comfortable, has a larger trunk, accelerates more quickly, and is cleaner-burning. The second generation, well, there's no comparison.
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Second and third generation Toyota Prius
First-generation Toyota Prius information
Year-long first-generation Toyota Prius review, with details, analysis, and answers to common questions
Toyota Prius Historical Highlights
November 2002. The Prius is the first car certified by the IRS for a $2,000 tax deduction.
August 2002. Motor Trend compared the Prius with the Honda Civic. They oddly chose the Civic hybrid, even though it is slower (12.7 0-60 for the Prius, 13.6 for the Civic - that's nearly a full second), gets lower overall gas mileage (52/45 for the Prius, 48/47 for the Civic), costs more (about $500 base price), and has 2 cubic feet less cargo capacity. The vehicles are similarly sized inside (other than the cargo capacity), and both have continuously variable transmissions. Motor Trend chose the Civic partly because of the Prius' "questionable handling" though both had similar slalom speeds (62.8 mph for the Civic, 60.3 for the Prius) and braking distances. One feature in the Civic's favor, for Motor Trend, was "Typical Civic quality." Funny, Consumer Reports doesn't seem to think the Civic's all that great in quality...and Toyota typically appears at the top of any quality charts you care to find.
Late May 2001. The City of Denver bought 39 Toyota Prius sedans for use by the Public Works and Fire departments, as well as seven RAV4-EVs (Electric Vehicles) for companies in the greater Denver area. The city also installed a number of electric-car charging stations.
The fully electric RAV4 will be leased by six organizations and used in a variety of applications from ride-sharing for a senior housing development to municipal use. The vehicles will join the fleets of these organizations for a 1-to-3-year demonstration project.
The RAV4-EV can reach top speeds of 79 miles per hour, with a range of 126 miles. A 228-volt outlet provides the electricity to recharge the vehicle in about six hours. Charging on all RAV4-EVs is conductive, which allows the majority of the charging componentry to be located in the charger rather than on the vehicle.
Early May 2001. New York City has purchased 231 Toyota Prius hybrid vehicles for use by municipal agencies doing their daily rounds. 56 more were bought by the MTA (a mass transit agency), and 33 more were purchased by the State of New Jersey. The extremely fuel-efficient cars will be used where they perform best, and will, we guess, be replacing some of New York's aging K-cars. The MTA has already started using hybrid buses and has switched to low-sulfur diesel fuel.