Back in the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century, a man which many of you know for being later responsible for a number of innovations at Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union, the first Volkswagen and the Porsche brand, was putting his genius to good work and creating the world's first working hybrid. Yes, we're talking about Ferdinand Porsche, probably the best automotive engineer in history.
Well, the funny thing is that almost a hundred years passed until a hybrid car actually went into mass production. Why the long delay? Well, probably because for the most part of the twentieth century, petroleum was almost as cheap and as wide spread as water. Nevertheless, petrol has become increasingly scarce and expensive, while the quality of air in the cities is getting worse "thanks" to the larger number of vehicles on the road.
Even though a bunch of other car manufacturers tried their luck at pursuing advancements in hybrid technology over the years, the darn thing didn't caught on and was eventually shelved. Then, back in 1992, none other than Toyota announced that one of its short-term goals is to develop and market a car that would retain all the benefits of modern vehicles while having much lower emissions. They were the first manufacturer with real "cojones" in the hybrid area.
A Toyota engineer, called Takehisa Yaegashi (now called Mr. Hybrid), was given the task to conduct a team that creates a car to "bridge the gap between electric and petrol-powered vehicles." So he did. As soon as the 1995 Tokio Motor Show, the Toyota Prius Concept was launched. A year later it began testing, and in late 1997 the first generation of the production car was launched in Japan.
Here we are, almost thirteen years and three generations later, with the latest Toyota Prius. Launched at the 2009 North American Auto Show (NAIAS), but destined for a global market, the third generation of the Prius is the first one that not only delivers all the benefits of a modern vehicle, but it also does it while giving its owners a feeling of driving something from the future.
We took a medium-specced European Prius to the test, only to find out how much it has evolved since its first generation, but also how far it is from an old-school, regular car. This is probably the closest thing to driving something from the near future, only that it's here, today. You will learn about both of our good and bad conclusions further on, so keep reading. Continue reading