The Big Technology Under the Hood of the Little Prius

The Big Technology Under the Hood of the Little Prius

"Nice Prius" 

- No one ever

Though the Toyota Prius has historically been the butt of many automotive related jokes, the vehicle has a number of strong, positive qualities that set it apart from the competition. The Prius can be considered a trail blazer of the automotive world, as it was one of the first ever hybrid vehicles to be mass produced in Japan starting in the late 1990s. It was introduced to the United States in 2002 and quickly gained traction in the mainstream marketplace, selling its 1 millionth model in 2011.  Since then, it has consistently been at the forefront of hybrid technology and continues to innovate nearly 20 years later. Over the course of the vehicle's history, it has developed a large following, thanks to its proven reliability and excellent gas mileage. The Prius may not be the fastest or best looking car on the road, but it is full of unique, interesting and powerful technology. 

As soon as you hit the Prius' electric start button, the vehicle's electric motor kicks on. Once you have accelerated up to 25 miles per hour, the Prius switches over to the gas motor, ready to carry you for up to 610 miles, wherever your destination may be. Along the way, the Prius will utilize many of its unique technological features to ensure you arrive safely and efficiently. 

To help conserve energy and charge its electric battery, the Prius takes advantage of a process called regenerative braking. As the car slows down, it recaptures the energy created by using your brakes by reversing the electric engine which conserves energy and creates electricity. This electricity can then be stored and used at a later time. It is this process that makes it so the Prius does not have to be plugged in to charge each night. 

Another cool feature offered in the Prius is dynamic cruise control that is designed to operate at any speed from 0-110 miles per hour. Using a combination of sensors and a front mounted camera, the Prius is able to detect when it is approaching a slower moving vehicle. It then automatically slows down to an appropriate speed allowing you to make necessary maneuvers without deactivating your cruise control. 

A vehicle's transmission is one of the most important pieces of its drivetrain. It selects the proper gear ensuring you have power when you need without overdoing it. Most automatic transmissions on the road today are not the same as automatic transmissions from the past. Today's automatic transmissions are known as continuously variable transmissions or CVT for short. Essentially, a CVT uses a metal belt or chain and two pulleys that can compress or expand using hydraulic pressure. As the vehicle's need for power changes, the pulleys change size, adjusting the gear ratio. The gear ratio will continue to change as you drive, selecting whatever ratio is optimal for the current performance needs. 

The Prius uses a variation of the CVT, but rather than using a belt or chain, it uses an electric motor to control the speeds of the gears. More efficient than a traditional CVT, the Prius' eCVT is just another form of technology that sets it apart from many other cars on the road.  

Though the Prius has a reputation as somewhat goofy and low performance vehicle, it has plenty of technology under the hood and it is safe, reliable and fuel efficient. Since its inception into the US market 19 years ago, nearly 2 million models have been sold and over 90% of those sold in the last 10 years are still on the road. Don't underestimate the little Prius that could!

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