This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

April 23, 2003

Toyota Unveils Improved Prius as Ford Previews Hybrid Escape

Toyota introduced a new, larger, more powerful Prius on April 16th at the 2003 New York International Auto Show (NYIAS). The 2004 Prius is about 15 percent more fuel efficient than the current model; according to Toyota, the new model will achieve a combined city/highway fuel efficiency of more than 50 miles per gallon. At the same time, a new lift-back rear end (somewhat reminiscent of the Honda Insight) and a longer wheelbase moves the Prius up to the midsize category of vehicles. The new Prius also accelerates faster than the current model and meets the California Air Resources Board (CARB) certifications as a Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (SULEV) and a Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (PZEV).

One key to the performance of the Prius is its new Hybrid Synergy Drive, which feeds the battery power through a new high-voltage power converter, supplying 500 volts of electricity to a 50-kilowatt motor. The new high-voltage motor is about 50 percent more powerful than the motor in the current model, and allows the vehicle to operate in all-electric mode for a greater percentage of time. The new Prius is expected to go on sale in fall. See the Toyota press release and Web site.

Also debuting at the NYIAS was the new Escape Hybrid SUV (sport utility vehicle) from Ford Motor Company. Like the Prius, the Escape Hybrid is a "full hybrid"-able to run on electric power only-and will achieve about 35 to 40 miles per gallon. It will also meet the SULEV and PZEV standards. Ford will begin low-volume fleet production of the Escape Hybrid by year-end, and plans to begin retail sales in late 2004. In addition, Ford announced plans to launch a new midsize sedan, the Futura, in late 2005, and plans to eventually offer a hybrid-electric version of that vehicle as well. See the Ford press releases for the Escape Hybrid and the Futura.

While luxury vehicles, sports cars, and SUVs continue to dominate most auto shows, advanced-technology vehicles are a growing presence. At this year's NYIAS, which runs through April 27th, automakers are displaying four gasoline-electric hybrids, three fuel-cell vehicles, and one hydrogen-fueled internal-combustion vehicle-enough to earn a separate category on the NYIAS Web site. See the "Alternative Fuel" category in the NYIAS "New Vehicle Gallery."