While the concept of a hybrid car is about as old as the mechanized chariot—in 1899 a young engineer named Ferdinand Porsche (yes, that one) unveiled what would become the first hybrid car, the Lohner-Porsche—its application hasn’t been developed for nearly a century. Fuel was cheap and plentiful, so why bother?
When we eventually realized that our reckless fuel consumption might not be that good for the environment and us, things changed. All of a sudden, vehicles that drank less fuel were seen as valuable.
In 1997, Toyota unveiled one of their most ground-breaking achievements: the original Prius. In the first year it launched, it won many awards, and was seen as a great way for the average consumer to save fuel and the planet. However, it was only available in Japan. Too bad, rest of the world, which would have to wait until 2001 to get a taste of the now-popular little sedan.
The second-generation Prius arrived in 2013, and with it mass appeal. Its hatchback proved quite popular to haul cargo, and made it unbelievably aerodynamic. With this car alone, Toyota filed 530 different patents.
More than two million units have been sold to date. It amounts to 50 per cent of the total number of hybrid vehicles on the road today. If you are looking to cut back on your fuel bill and CO2 footprint while getting behind the wheel of one of the most advanced vehicles there is, the Prius is the way to go.
But what makes this car such a contender for your money? First, its hybrid setup is the most proven in the industry. It uses a lithium-ion battery (or a nickel-metal hydride unit in the base version) to return an impressive fuel consumption of 4.6 litres per 100 km.
Another important factor in the Prius’ impressive fuel consumption is that it trains its drivers to drive in a more eco-friendly way by showing them when the gasoline engine kicks in and the state of the battery.
The Prius became so popular that it spawned a complete family of hybrid vehicles: There’s the Prius C, a smaller hatchback intended for city driving; the Prius V, a large wagon that became surprisingly popular with taxi drivers; the Prius Prime, which can run on electricity alone and recharges using a plug; the Camry Hybrid, combining the comfort of the Camry with a more fuel-efficient drivetrain; the RAV4 Hybrid, a crossover that uses its electric motor to power the back wheel; and the Highlander Hybrid, giving you a full-size SUV with the fuel consumption of a small car.
So what’s next for the Prius? While we can’t predict the future, we can safely say that this very popular model won’t stop production anytime soon. In fact, let’s not forget that the current Prius is four-years-old. In the automotive world, this means that it will soon be due for a stylistic upgrade and some new tech… Maybe 2019?