Toyota Prius to get AC electric outlets

Article by Christian Andrei, on July 19, 2011

Starting next year, consumers can opt to have AC electric outlets on their Toyota Prius hybrid. Anything from a refrigerator, a television, or computer can be plugged into this vehicle. Toyota got the idea after seeing victims of the Japan earthquake use the Toyota Estima hybrid van as a source of emergency electricity.

So far, it is the only model from Toyota that features a standard AC outlet. Toyota is planning to add this feature to the Prius next year and it’s expected to eventually be offered by all hybrids. However, it will be initially offered just in Japan.

Toyota is holding off on using this technology on export models for now as there still are concerns about different voltages and safety regulations. At an event in Sendai recently, Toyota showed off a Prius that had Japan’s standard 100-volt AC plug.

An onboard inverter transforms the DC current of the Prius’ nickel-metal hydride battery into usable AC current. Toyota demonstrated how the car powers the fan, hotpot, table lamp and refrigerator. Similarly, most car owners could transform their internal combustion engine into a mini power station by using relatively cheap inverters that plug into the cigarette lighter socket.

With the AC outlet from Toyota, drivers don’t have to use any other type of accessory. And since it taps into a significantly larger battery, it offers a maximum output of 1,500 watts. If the car is used as a generator, its engine automatically cranks up to recharge the battery if the power runs low. Toyota says that with a full tank of gasoline, full power can be supplied by the Prius for about two days.

It was back in 1997 when Toyota introduced to the market the first generation of the Prius, the first mass-produced hybrid in the world. The name comes from the Latin phrase "to go before", which is apt considering that this model was unveiled prior to environmental awareness as a social issue becoming mainstream. Even from the start, Toyota made sure to develop the full-hybrid system in-house, a good choice considering that this is currently the driving force of its innovative vehicle technology.

At present, the brand has its very own Hybrid Synergy Drive System, first released with the second-generation Prius in 2004. Since that time, at least 670,000 units of the Prius have been sold in the country. For the third-generation, engineers at Toyota made sure that the design contained a thorough refinement of the current systems and mixed in with an uncompromising amount of the latest technology essential for the future.

As a result, the 2010 Prius has advanced design features, improved performance, and enhanced mileage ratings. On the inside it is less noisy, offers more space, and fitted with advanced features as standard. Examples of these features are the four driving modes, Intelligent Parking Assist, and the moonroof that has solar panels. Its steering wheel is where one can find the touch controls, which are displayed on the instrument panel.

Powering the third-generation Prius will be a stronger and larger Atkinson-cycle 4-cylinder 1.8-liter engine. Some may say otherwise but having a larger engine in reality enhances highway mileage. One way to do this is to create additional torque so that the engine is able to run at a lower average rpm, and since it is running at this level of rpm, it consumes less fuel.

This is not the only improvement as mileage is better as well when driving at higher speeds or during cold-start situations. Helping with the efficiency of the engine is the exhaust gas recirculation and the electric water pump. In fact, the engine in the 2010 Prius is the first power plant in the brand’s history to make no use of belts under its hood which gives it improved fuel economy and less need for frequent maintenance.

Fitted as standard is a multi-information display panel that manages both the energy consumption and the fuel consumption as well. There are three different displays where the feedback is shown and thus the driver is able to develop economical driving habits. The new Toyota Prius will be built using processes that reduce pollution in every stage of vehicle life, from production and driving, through to disposal.

In terms of fuel economy, the 2010 Prius continues to improve on the already excellent fuel economy of the line. The first-generation of the Prius had a combined city/highway EPA rating of 41 mpg. By the second-generation, this went up to 46 mpg. For the new Prius, rating stands at 50 mpg and this is due to its use of a combination of various technologies. However compared to other hybrid vehicles on the market, what makes the Prius different is that it has been a full hybrid since the beginning.

The Prius can therefore run solely on the battery, on the engine, or a combination of the two. By using a system that mixes a series hybrid design with that of a parallel hybrid, the Prius can run solely on electric mode and can charge the batteries while doing so. Another feature unique to the Prius is that it is manufactured with a guarantee that at each stage of the life cycle of the vehicle, from the creation, to driving, and even to disposal, pollution is lowered.

As mentioned, the 2010 Prius continues to utilize the patented Hybrid Synergy Drive system but in its case, around 90% of it has been improved. One of the changes was making the transaxle lighter and thus lowering the torque losses by at most 20% compared to the prior model.

The inverter, the device which switches the direct current to alternating current, has also been reduced in weight and size. It even has a direct cooling system. When considering everything, the transaxle, motor, and inverter, the unit is smaller and lighter by 20%. Adopted in this is the recently developed regenerative braking system that is electronically controlled. It has a control logic which has been optimized in order to improve regeneration.

Three selections for the driving modes will be in the new Prius. The first is Eco Mode which offers the best mileage. The second is the Power Mode which heightens the throttle input’s sensitivity to give it that more athletic feel. The third is the EV-Drive where the Prius runs purely on battery power for a mile at low speeds, should the situation allow.

Without a doubt the Prius has set the standards for what future cars should be as it remains to offers ultra-low emissions and excellent fuel economy. The Prius has managed to deliver on these expectations for more than a decade to over one million customers. The new Prius will be officially unveiled by Toyota during the 2009 North American International Auto show.

Topics: toyota, toyota prius

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