Behind the Scenes with the Prius


Chances are good that if you drive a hybrid you're probably pretty happy about the idea of owning a car that's better for the environment. You may even start feeling so good about yourself for making that righteous purchase that you start to relish the smell of your own "emissions," as we now know (thanks to South Park) is the case for smug San Franciscans. There is, however, an intricate and compelling story behind Toyota's hybrids that most of us have never heard. An article in this week's San Francisco Chronicle elucidates some of the very engaging history behind Toyota's Prius and the company's decision to aggressively pursue environmental technologies at a time when fuel efficiency was practically a non-issue. It tells how in the 1990s a team of 100 Toyota engineers was assembled for a special project—to create a car with 100% improved efficiency, a car for the 21st century. The team worked round the clock feverishly in twelve-hour shifts to meet the stringent demands Toyota had set for the project. While U.S. automakers chastised Toyota for pursuing hybrid cars, the Prius's success story began in 1997 when it hit the Japanese market and has been glowing steadily brighter even since. Toyota is expected to pass GM this year as the world's largest automaker and has an estimated value that is more than double the combined value of GM, Ford, and DaimlerChrysler. :: San Francisco Chronicle