Toyota first introduced the Estima hybrid minivan in 2001. At the time it, was the first hybrid minivan and the first mass-produced vehicle to use an electric four-wheel-drive system. The new redesigned Estima was just launched in Japan and its fuel consumption is impressive for a 7-seat vehicle: 5.0 l/100km (47 mpg US) in the Japanese 10-15 cycle, more than 20% greater than the level called for by the Japanese 2010 standards, and both NOx (nitrogen oxides) and NMHC (non-methane hydrocarbons) emissions are 75% lower than the 2005 standards. It is powered by a 2.4 liters gasoline engine (147 hp) and, depending on the configuration, either one or two electric motors (105 kW in the front and 50 KW in the back). The price in Japan starts at ¥3,633,000 (US$31,770), consumption tax included.One interesting technology used in the Toyota Estima hybrid is:
An exhaust heat recovery system has been adopted to recover thermal energy from the exhaust and use it to heat engine coolant. This reduces engine warm-up time, which enables the engine to shut off earlier when idling, contributing to further improvements in actual fuel economy.
It is not mentioned if this feature also helps the catalytic converter heat up faster, but emission-control systems are much more efficient when at peak operating temperature.
* By using Toyota's original comprehensive environmental impact assessment system known as Eco-VAS (Eco-Vehicle Assessment System) [also used on the Toyota Yaris -Ed.], environmental targets were set in the development stage and a life cycle assessment was conducted to allow the reduction of CO2 emissions throughout all stages of the vehicle's life from production and use to disposal.
* In addition to using materials with excellent recyclability, greater attention has been paid to the environment by, among other means, reducing VOC (volatile organic compounds) emissions and the use of substances of environmental concern such as lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium and others.
There is also an EV Drive Mode that allows the Estima hybrid to run on electric motor power.
The first picture is of the concept, but as you can see in the second picture, the final version is fairly similar (if not quite as cool-looking).
Usual warning with car articles: Walk, cycle, carpool, take public transit, telecommute. Try to live close to the things you need and where you work. But if you have to own a car, get the most efficient model that fills your needs, drive sanely, keep it in good mechanical condition and keep your tires properly inflated.