Toyota is gearing up to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Prius by taking a look back at the original model which was introduced in 1997.
The story begins in 1993 when the company began discussing a “vehicle for the 21st century.” These discussions paved the way for the creation of the G21 Project which would eventually be known as the Prius.
The project originally had the goal of “raising fuel efficiency performance to 1.5 times the level of that of conventional engines,” but that target was later increased to twice the level of conventional engines. The company toyed with several ideas but the development team finally decided to go with a hybrid powertrain when management wanted to show a concept at the 1995 Tokyo Motor Show.
The concept was unveiled in the fall of that year and it featured a 1.5-liter D4 engine, a continuously variable transmission, and a capacitor which acted as an energy storage device. This, along with an engine start/stop system, enabled the car to return 70.5 mpg (30km/L) which was roughly twice as much as other vehicles in the same class.
The production model was launched two years later and became the world’s first mass-produced hybrid. The car remained relatively faithful to the original concept but it returned a slightly less impressive 65.8 mpg (28.0 km/L).