Toyota Prius turns 20 in December this year, celebrating the release of the first-generation car that was launched in Japan with the tagline “Just in time for the 21st century”.
The idea for an alternate drivetrain for cars began forming in the 1960s at Toyota due to overwhelming environmental challenges such as air quality, climate change and the supply of and demand for energy.
In the 1990s, Toyota started to investigate a path for technological development which continues today in the quest for sustainable mobility.
Toyota’s G21 project began in 1994, in which the company aimed to create a car for the 21st century with impeccable environmental credentials while offering the convenience and driving pleasure of a conventional vehicle.
The first-generation Prius was shown as a concept car at the 1995 Tokyo Motor Show and released in Japan two years later as a production model, with a 1.5-litre petrol engine working in tandem with an electric motor.
It won Japan’s Car of the Year award and went on to be acclaimed around the world as the forerunner of a new era of automotive environmental consciousness and automotive electrification.
In 1997, the debut of Prius raised a lot of eyebrows and some sceptical comments, but Toyota engineers and leaders never gave up.
The completely restyled second-generation Prius was launched at the New York International Auto Show in 2003. It achieved even better fuel economy, and its “triangle silhouette” made it the forerunner of hybrid design.
The third-generation Prius, again restyled, adopted a larger 1.8-litre petrol engine and was once more named Japanese Car of the Year from its 2009 debut. It marked a breakthrough for hybrid technology, which had matured to the point where it appealed to a much greater number of customers around the world.
In early 2010, Toyota broadened its line-up by introducing hybrid versions of the best-selling Camry sedan. Two years later, the Prius nameplate was expanded into a family with the arrival of the Prius c city car and the seven-seat Prius v.
The fourth-generation Prius, which was launched in Australia last year, offers substantially improved efficiency and driveability, with cutting-edge styling and chassis dynamics that make it fun to drive.