Out of their discussions came the idea of the Prius, the world’s most popular hybrid vehicle, which turns ten in December this year. The Japan Times reports that the original ten engineers have come together once again to reflect on the birth of iconic car.
"The development of the Prius was a continuing process of trial and error," revealed one engineer. "What kept us going was our motivation to develop the world's first (hybrid car) product." The original plan was to improve the efficiency of the internal combustion engine to gain in the fuel economy stakes but Toyota’s exec VP at the time, Akihiro Wada, demanded a doubling of fuel efficiency. The solution? Add an electric motor.
The team then faced a deadline for launch in 1997. "We first thought that the plan was to launch the new car by the end of the 20th century, or 1999, so we thought we would have more time," another member said. But they met their deadline, and in December 1997, the first Prius was launched.
Now attention turns to the future of hybrids and a third generation Prius model. Toyota is hard at work developing cheaper hybrid systems, and hopes to sell one million of them by the end of the decade. Recently, Toyota’s vice president in charge of powertrain development, Masatami Takimoto, claimed that by 2020 all Toyota models will be hybrids.