Making the case for a hybrid, again

Aug 11 2012, 02:34 IST
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SummaryThe new Toyota Prius improves upon the already competent car we had. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come cheap. Will you retail your monies for a clean air and a cleaner consciousness?

When extended a proposal to drive the new hybrid car in town, I picked my bicycle to reach the nearest metro station, took the metro train, dropped down near the dealership, and walked till I reached there—essentially, taking a relatively eco-friendly route to reach the car. This, I call the Prius effect! To auto enthusiasts, Toyota Prius doesn’t quite require much introduction—it is a pioneer in hybrid technology and the first mass production hybrid vehicle. More than delivering better fuel efficiency and lower carbon emissions, the car has introduced futuristic design and able driving performance for a hybrid, and has received great acclaim across the world. To the environmentally-conscious, Prius is a Latin word meaning “to go before”—according to Toyota, the name was chosen because the Prius was launched before environmental awareness became a mainstream social issue (essentially, when Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 1997).

But what exactly is a hybrid? A hybrid vehicle uses both the internal combustion engine and an electric motor to propel a car. The electric motor is there to achieve both better fuel economy and better performance. Modern hybrids use technologies such as regenerative braking (rather than wasting it as heat energy) that convert the vehicle’s kinetic energy into electric energy, which, in turn, charges the batteries.

Not many may know this but a hybrid is not a new phenomenon. In fact, it was more than a century ago that the first hybrid was developed—the Lohner-Porsche Mixte Hybrid made by Ferdinand Porsche was the first gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle in the world. But, back then, or even until the 1980s, there was no need to invest in hybrid R&D because of the low cost of petroleum (thus low cost of running vehicles) and comparatively little environmental consciousness. This was until the times started to change. And sometime during such times, the Prius took birth—the first car went on sale in Japan on December 10, 1997, a day before Kyoto (December 11, 1997).

The Prius came to India in 2010 but the car you see in pictures here is the all-new variant—among other changes, it is powered by the solar ventilation system—that was introduced at the Auto Expo in Delhi earlier this year. The new Prius comes across as the most identifiable designs on the street. The bold bumper with a tiny grille (the car’s engine cooling requirements are low) make for a clean front. Looked at from the side,

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