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How the Toyota Prius Works


Toyota Prius Design
Although it's a conservative-looking sedan, the design for the Prius is compact and aerodynamic, allowing it to save the extra bit on fuel economy.
Although it's a conservative-looking sedan, the design for the Prius is compact and aerodynamic, allowing it to save the extra bit on fuel economy.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The Toyota Prius has been, historically, fairly conservative in regards to its outward appearances. Since its release in Japan and America, the Prius has closely resembled most compact cars on the road. The design, however, has become sleeker as the years have gone by, with a significantly more aerodynamic body to allow air to flow more quickly over the top of the car and create less drag.

The current 2010 Toyota Prius, the third generation of the popular hybrid, underwent some slight yet influential changes. Toyota wanted to keep the general design intact since the Prius has become a relatively recognizable hybrid, but small additions and subtractions count. The body is about four inches (10 centimeters) longer than the previous model and an inch (2.5 centimeters) wider, too, and several small tweaks, including sharper corners and carefully designed lines for better air release, make the Prius look more modern. This all adds up to a decrease in overall wind resistance, and the drag coefficient (Cd) is currently 0.25 compared to 0.26 for the 2009 model. That number might seem small, but in the end it adds a significant amount more to the miles per gallon average.

All three generations of the Prius have been equipped with an energy monitor, one of the vehicle's biggest draws for costumers concerned about fuel efficiency. A multi-function display (MFD) monitors energy flowing to and from the engine and battery, along with information about the vehicle's regenerative braking and battery levels. This lets aware drivers keep an eye on how much fuel they're using, and, if they pay attention, it can even encourage more fuel-efficient driving practices. Digital gauges that display vehicle speed, engine RPMs and other vital stats, are under a centrally located hood high atop the vehicle's dashboard.

So that's how a Prius looks, but what makes a Prius run? We'll tell you on the next page.


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