The Toyota Prius (/ˈpriːəs/) is a full hybrid electric mid-size hatchback, formerly a compact sedan developed and manufactured by Toyota. The United States Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board (CARB) rate the Prius as among the cleanest vehicles sold in the United States based on smog-forming emissions.The 2016 model year Prius Eco ranks as the all-time most fuel efficient gasoline-powered car available in the U.S. without plug-in capability.
The Prius first went on sale in Japan in 1997, and was available at all four Toyota Japan dealerships, making it the first mass-produced hybrid vehicle. It was subsequently introduced worldwide in 2000.The Prius is sold in over 90 markets, with Japan and the United States being its largest markets.Global cumulative Prius liftback sales reached the milestone 1 million vehicle mark in May 2008, 2 million in September 2010, and passed the 3 million mark in June 2013.Cumulative sales of 1 million Priuses were achieved in the U.S. by early April 2011,and Japan reached the 1 million mark in August 2011. Global sales of the Prius c variant passed the 1 million mark during the first half of 2015.
In 2011, Toyota expanded the Prius family to include the Prius v, an extended hatchback wagon, and the Prius c, a subcompact hatchback. The production version of the Prius plug-in hybrid was released in 2012. The Prius family totaled global cumulative sales of 5.2 million units in July 2015, representing 65.4% of the 8 million hybrids sold worldwide by Toyota since 1997.
Fuel economy and emissions
- United States
Since its inception, the Toyota Prius has been among the best fuel economy vehicles available in the United States, and for the model year 2012, the Prius family has three models among the top 10 most fuel-efficient cars sold in the country as rated by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). After the Honda Insight first generation was discontinued in September 2006, the Prius liftback became the most fuel-efficient car sold in the American market, until it was topped by the Chevrolet Volt in December 2010, as the plug-in hybrid was rated by EPA with an overall combined city/highway gasoline-electricity fuel economy of 60 mpg-US (3.9 L/100 km; 72 mpg-imp) equivalent (MPG-e). According to the EPA, for the model year 2012, and when only gasoline-powered vehicles are considered (excluding all-electric cars), the Prius c ranks as the most fuel-efficient compact car, the Prius liftback as the most fuel-efficient midsize car, and the Prius v as the most fuel-efficient midsize station wagon.
More fossil fuel is needed to build hybrid vehicles than a conventional cars but reduced emissions when running the vehicle more than outweigh this.
among Prius family models sold in the U.S. (model year 2001–2012)
|Prius 1st gen (NHW11)||2001–2003||42 mpg-US (5.6 L/100 km)||41 mpg-US (5.7 L/100 km)||217 (135 g/km)||na||8.0|
|Prius 2nd gen (XW20)||2004–2009||48 mpg-US (4.9 L/100 km)||45 mpg-US (5.2 L/100 km)||193 (120 g/km)||9/7
|Prius 3rd gen (XW30)||2010–2012||51 mpg-US (4.6 L/100 km)||48 mpg-US (4.9 L/100 km)||178 (111 g/km)||9/7
|Prius v (ZVW41)||2012||44 mpg-US (5.3 L/100 km)||40 mpg-US (5.9 L/100 km)||212 (132 g/km)||8/7
|Prius c (NHP10)||2012||53 mpg-US (4.4 L/100 km)||46 mpg-US (5.1 L/100 km)||178 (111 g/km)||NA||6.6|
|Prius Plug-in Hybrid
in EV mode
|133 (82 g/km)||All-electric range
|95 mpg-e (2.5 L/100 km)||50 mpg-US (4.7 L/100 km)||11 mi (18 km)|
|Source: U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency All ratings correspond to EPA 5-cycle testing procedure (2008 and beyond).
Note: (1) First score is for California and Northeastern states, the second score is for the other states and D.C. Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (SULEV) is a U.S. classification for conventionally powered vehicles designed to produce minimal emissions of certain categories of air pollution.
The following table presents fuel economy performance and carbon emissions for all Prius family models sold in Japan since 1997. The ratings are presented for both, the current official 10-15 mode cycle test and the new JC08 test designed for Japan’s new standards that goes into effect in 2015, but it is already being by several car manufacturers for new cars. The Prius 2nd generation became the first car to meet Japan’s new 2015 Fuel Economy Standards measured under the JC08 test.
among Prius family models sold in the Japan (years 1997–2012)
10-15 Mode Test
(km per litre)
(km per litre)
(grams per km CO2)
10-15 Mode Test
(grams per km CO2)
|Prius 1st gen (NHW10)||1997–2001||28 km/L (66 mpg-US)||na||na||na|
|Prius 1st gen (NHW11)||2001–2003||29 km/L (68 mpg-US)||na||na||na|
|Prius 2nd gen (XW20)||2004–2009||35.5 km/L (84 mpg-US)||29.6 km/L (70 mpg-US)||65||78|
|Prius 3rd gen (XW30)||2010–2012||38 km/L (89 mpg-US)||32.6 km/L (77 mpg-US)||61||71|
|Prius α (ZVW40)||2011||31 km/L (73 mpg-US)||26.2 km/L (62 mpg-US)||75||89|
|Toyota Aqua (NHP10)||2012||40 km/L (94 mpg-US)||35.4 km/L (83 mpg-US)||na||na|
|Prius Plug-in Hybrid
in EV mode
(grams per km CO2)
|61 km/L (140 mpg-US)||31.6 km/L (74 mpg-US)||26.4 km (16.4 mi)||38|
Lifetime energy usage
In 2008 the British government and British media have requested that Toyota release detailed figures for the energy use and CO2 emissions resulting from the building and disposal of the Prius. Toyota has not supplied the requested data details to address statements that the lifetime energy usage of the Prius (including the increased environmental cost of manufacture and disposal of the nickel-metal hydride battery) is outweighed by lower lifetime fuel consumption. Toyota states that lifetime CO2 saving is 43 percent. As of 2010, the UK Government Car Service runs over 100 Priuses, the largest part of its fleet and lists the Prius as having the lowest CO2 emissions among its fleet.
CNW Marketing Research initially published a study in which they estimated that the total lifetime energy cost of a 2005 Prius was greater than that of a Hummer H2. The study is widely cited, but its contents have also been widely debunked: see for example “Hummer versus Prius: ‘Dust to Dust’ Report Misleads the Media and Public with Bad Science”.
Electromagnetic field levels
The Prius uses electric motors in the hybrid propulsion systems, powered by a high voltage battery in the rear of the car. There has been some public concern over whether the levels of electromagnetic field exposure within the cabin are higher than comparable cars, and what health effects those fields may present, popularized by a 2008 The New York Times article. However, Toyotaand several independent studies have indicated that aside from a brief spike when accelerating, the electromagnetic fields within the Prius are no different from those of a conventional car and do not exceed the ICNIRPexposure guidelines.
A 2013 study by the Mayo Clinic found that patients with implanted cardiac devices such as pacemakers and defibrillators can safely drive or ride in hybrids or plug-in electric cars without risk of electromagnetic interference (EMI). The research was conducted using implantable devices from the three major manufacturers and a 2012 Toyota Prius hybrid. The study used 30 participants with implanted devices, and measured electric and magnetic fields in six positions inside and outside the Prius, and each position was evaluated at different speeds.
The Wall Street Journal reported in February 2007 on concerns that quiet cars like the Prius may pose a safety risk to those who rely on engine noise to sense the presence or location of moving vehicles. Blind pedestrians are a primary concern, and the National Federation of the Blind advocates audio emitters on hybrid vehicles, but it has been argued that increased risks may also affect sighted pedestrians or bicyclists who are accustomed to aural cues from vehicles. However, silent vehicles are already relatively common, and there is also a lack of aural cues from vehicles that have a conventional internal combustion engine where engine noise has been reduced by noise-absorbing materials in the engine bay and noise-canceling muffler systems. In July 2007, a spokesman for Toyota said the company is aware of the issue and is studying options.
In 2010, Toyota released a device for the third-generation Prius meant to alert pedestrians of its proximity. Japan issued guidelines for such warning devices in January 2010 and the U.S. approved legislation on December 2010. Models equipped with automatically activated systems include all 2012 and later model year Prius family vehicles that have been introduced in the United States, including the standard Prius, the Prius v, the Prius c and the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid. The warning sound is activated when the car is traveling at less than 15 mph (24 km/h) and cannot be manually turned off.
Marketing and culture
In the UK, the Advertising Standards Authority, an independent body charged with policing the rules of the advertising industry, ruled that a television advert for the Toyota Prius should not be broadcast again in the same form, having breached rules concerning misleading advertising. The advertisement stated that the Prius “emits up to one tonne less CO2 per year”, while on-screen text included “1 tonne of CO2 less than an equivalent family vehicle with a diesel engine. Average calculated on 20,000 km a year.” Points of contention were the vehicles chosen for comparison, whether “‘up to’ one tonne less” adequately communicated that reductions could be lower, and whether the distance used was appropriate: 20,000 km per year is around a U.S. car’s average annual driving distance, while a UK car’s is 13,440 km.
The large number of Prius-owning progressive celebrities in 2002 prompted the Washington Post to dub hybrids “Hollywood’s latest politically correct status symbol”. Conservatives called “Prius Patriots” also drive the cars because they want to contribute to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.A 2007 San Francisco Chronicle article said “Prius Progressives” were becoming an archetype, with American conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh opining that “these liberals think they’re ahead of the game on these things, and they’re just suckers”.
In July 2007 The New York Times published an article using data from CNW Marketing Research finding that 57% of Prius buyers said their main reason for buying was that “it makes a statement about me”, while just 37% cited fuel economy as a prime motivator. Shortly afterwards Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson coined the term “Prius politics” to describe a situation where the driver’s desire to “show off” is a stronger motivator than the desire to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Some conservatives promote use of the Toyota Prius and other hybrid cars. For example, Jim Road from What Would Jesus Drive? encouraged people to drive hybrid cars because of the damage that large SUVs and faster cars can do to others.
Former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) chief R. James Woolsey, Jr. drives a Prius because of its low fuel consumption. Woolsey noted the volatility of the Middle East, coupled with anti-U.S. sentiment in much of the region. Noting that the high percentage of oil drilled in the Middle East gives vast profits to Middle Eastern regimes, Woolsey believes that it is a patriotic obligation to drive more efficient vehicles. In a Motor Trend magazine article, Woolsey stated that those oil profits find their way to terrorist groups like al-Qaeda, meaning that Americans who buy inefficient vehicles would, in effect, be indirectly funding terrorism. “We’re paying for both sides in this war, and that’s not a good long-term strategy”, said Woolsey. “I have a bumper sticker on the back of my Prius that reads, ‘Bin Laden hates this car.'”
DARPA driverless edition
A driverless version of the Prius was one of six cars to finish the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge.
A racing version of the car took class pole position and finished sixth at the 2012 Fuji GT 500km.
Government and corporate incentives
There have been a number of governments with incentives intended to encourage hybrid car sales. In some countries, including the U.S. and Canada, some rebate incentives have been exhausted, while other countries such as the United Kingdom, Sweden, Belgium, and the Netherlands have various or alternative incentives to purchasing a hybrid vehicle.
Several U.S. companies offer employees incentives. Bank of America will reimburse US$3,000 on the purchase of new hybrid vehicles to full- and part-time associates working more than 20 hours per week. Google, software company Hyperion Solutions, and organic food and drink producer Clif Bar & Co offer employees a US$5,000 credit toward their purchase of certain hybrid vehicles including the Prius. Integrated Archive Systems, a Palo Alto IT company, offers a US$10,000 subsidy toward the purchase of hybrid vehicles to full-time employees employed more than one year.
Travelers Companies, a large insurance company, offers hybrid owners a 10% discount on auto insurance in most U.S. states. The Farmers Insurance Group offers a similar discount of up to 10% in most U.S. states.
In June 2015, the Prius started use a general purpose patrol car of the National Police of Ukraine. 1,568 cars were supplied by Japan in return for Ukrainian emissions permits under the Kyoto Protocol.