The Whole Prius Family Receives GreenCarReports’ 2012 Best Green Car to Buy Award

Posted by John Dolan | Posted in Hybrids, News | Posted on 28-11-2011

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<img class="alignleft size-medium wp-image-529" src="×225.jpg"

alt=”” width=”300″ height=”225″ /> has just named the entire 2012 Toyota Prius family of vehicles its “Best Green Car to Buy 2012.” As we have reported in this blog earlier, the Prius will expand in the 2012 model year to a family of four, including the third-generation Prius Liftback, the Prius v, the Prius c and the Prius Plug-in Hybrid.


GreenCarReports editors choose the most significant new ‘green’ car available to shoppers during each model year based on practicality, new technologies and their impact on the environment. The website’s “Best Green Car to Buy” award recognizes mass-market, environmentally-friendly vehicles. Utilizing the CarConnection’s ratings as a starting point for their evaluations, their editorial team applies their own criteria to select the winner that will carry the “Best Green Car to Buy” environmental message.


“The Prius is more than just one car this year,” said GreenCarReports editor John Voelcker. “With a new Prius v and the Prius Plug-in Hybrid, it is now a family of vehicles with some of the highest gas mileage on the market today, and the Prius name is likely to help encourage buyers to take the plunge into plug-in vehicles.”


The Prius vehicles that won the award were chosen from a very competitive field of environmentally sensitive cars that also included the Honda Civic Hybrid, Infiniti M35h, Mitsubishi i and the Volkswagen Passat TDI.


“Judging from the regular stream of e-mails asking us when someone will make a hybrid minivan or wagon”, Voelcker said, “Toyota should see a lot of interest in the 2012 Prius V wagon. It’s taller, longer, and has far more load space–and a much more flexible rear seat–than the standard 2012 Prius hatchback.”

And based GreenCarReports first drive review of the 2012 Toyota Prius V wagon, Voelcker said that Prius v’s 42 mpg mileage figure is real–and can be replicated by real-world drivers. The Prius v is every inch a Prius, but with more space. “That means that families with a couple of kids in car seats now have 34 to 40 cubic feet of load space behind the rear seat, or 67 cubic feet with the seat down. The rear seat of the Prius V also slides back and forth several inches, expanding and contracting the load bay as needed”, added the GreenCarReports editor. (By comparison, the five-door hatchback Prius offers 22 cubic feet with the seat up.)

Concerning the Prius Plug-in Hybrid Voelcker said, “we think it will be viewed as the safest, least risky way for car buyers to experiment with plug-in vehicles. The production plug-in Prius carries an asset that neither the Volt nor the Leaf has: the Prius name, which for a decade now has stood for very high gas mileage and Toyota solidity.”

For more info on the GreenCarReports Best Car To Buy 2012 award, see their dedicated page, Best Car To Buy 2012, which includes a profile of every nominee and more on the award itself (as well as last year’s winner, the 2011 Nissan Leaf–the first battery electric vehicle sold in volume in many decades).





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Toyota Introduces the FT-86 a.k.a. The Scion FR-S!

Posted by John Dolan | Posted in News | Posted on 27-11-2011

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The Toyota FT-86 has been showing up on the auto show circuit for the past couple of years.  Now the production-spec machine is set to make its debut at the Tokyo Motor Show later this month.


In advance of the Tokyo premiere Toyota’s UK division recently released the first official photos and some initial specs.  In Europe, the car will officially be called the Toyota GT 86.  In the US, however, it will be a part of the Scion family and dubbed the FR-S.  While in Japan, the car will be known simply as the 86.


The Scion FR-S (aka. the GT 86 and the 86) will be the world’s only current sports car to feature a front-mounted, horizontally opposed engine and rear wheel-drive.  It will be Toyota’s most recent entry in its 50-year sports car heritage going back to the 1962 Sports 800 and the sleek 2000 GT straight-six that made its debut at the 1965 Tokyo Motor Show.  This is a heritage that also includes four generations of the Supra, which also came with straight-six engines and rear-wheel drive and culminated in the MR2 which was recognized as one of the best handling sports cars in motoring history.


The real inspiration for the FT-86 concept, however, was the Corolla GT (or Levin) AE86, a classic front engine, rear-wheel drive, limited slip differential configuration sports car introduced by Toyota in 1983.  The Corolla AE86 was a classic drift car suited to rally racing and drifting motor-sports.  For this reason, it became hugely popular with Japanese street racers called “Hashiriya” who would take the car through mountain passes and the tight corners that so suited the AE86.  Many auto enthusiasts refer to the AE86 by its Japanese name “Hachi-Roku,” which translated means “eight-six”.


The Scion FR-S (Toyota 86) is Toyota’s effort to re-engage with driving enthusiasts after discontinuing vehicles like the Supra, Celica and MR2 a few years ago.  It’s important to note that Toyota describes the car as a sports car that has been “designed by passion not by committee”.  Purists have griped that the bean counters have taken over Toyota in recent years and the company has over-focused on producing reliable, but vanilla cars that appeal to the mass market.  Judging from all the chat-room buzz and the FT-86 clubs out there, the diehards are already fully engaged.


In addition to its front-mounted engine and rear wheel-drive, this entirely driver-focused sports car will feature a low center of gravity and an excellent power-to-weight ratio.  Built on an all-new platform, the Scion FR-S (Toyota 86) will have a highly aerodynamic body with a near-perfect 53:47 front-to-rear weight distribution.  Both the driving position and the power-train have been set as low as possible for the best balance.  The driver’s hip point will be the lowest of any current Toyota model.  Low curb weight combined with a suspension that features MacPherson struts in the front and double wishbone at the rear make it easy for drivers to push its nimble handling and cornering potential.


The Toyota 86’s engine is a joint venture between Toyota and Subaru (with a little Yamaha thrown in for extra measure.  Yamaha has long been a partner in engine design with Toyota going back to the GT2000).  Toyota added its D-4S fuel injection technology to Suburu’s new, horizontally opposed 2.0 liter four-cylinder boxer engine.  The D-4S injection system features twin injectors for both direct and port injection and a high 12.5:1 compression ratio, increasing power and torque across a wide  acceleration range without sacrificing fuel economy or environmental performance.  Just like earlier Toyota sports cars, power to the rear wheels is distributed via a limited slip differential to give the best possible grip on all road surfaces.  The ABS and switchable vehicle stability systems have been tuned to precisely deliver stability and performance with minimal electronic intervention.  The Toyota 86’s handling is so precise that called the Scion FR-S “the Scion that slides”.


The 200 horsepower 2013 Scion FR-S should more than re-engage Toyota buyers into the world of sports cars.  Since it will be a Scion you can bet there will be loads of customizable accessories.  Its well-engineered lay out and usable engine power will actually make driving fun and affordable.  The FR-S will definitely be worth the wait!






Some Specs:


  • 2.0-liter boxer with D4-S injection (direct and port injected)
  • 197 hp @ 7,000 rpm and 151 lb-ft (205 Nm) @6,600 rpm
  • 6-speed manual or automatic transmissions
  • 17-inch wheel/tire package standard
  • 4,240mm (167 in.) long, 1285mm (50.6 in.) high, 2,570mm (101 in.) wide
  • 53:47 front-to-rear weight distribution
  • 475mm (18.7 in.) center of gravity


Sources:  Toyota Pressroom, Autoblog, The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia),

wikipedia,, http://www.ft86club.com,





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Prius Projects No. 11: A Bicycle That Can Read Your Mind

Posted by John Dolan | Posted in Hybrids, News | Posted on 14-11-2011

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  Last year Toyota kicked off the Prius Projects to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the Prius, track its history and to encourage partnerships and projects that engage the Prius community.  According to Toyota, the Prius Projects encourage inventors and dreamers alike to tinker with technology and “celebrate how Prius people are making the world more interesting.”  The Prius Projects website will track and document the various Prius-related partnerships, sponsorships, contests and projects over the next year.


One of the more innovative side projects to come out of the Prius Projects incubator so far from Prius folks is the Prius X Parlee (PXP) concept bicycle.  The svelte carbon fiber bike is a hybrid, which is appropriate given the Prius connection.  The PXP is part road racer, part time-trial bike and part tourer.  Like the Prius, the bike is also designed for optimal aero-efficiency.  The designers at Parlee Cycles put in a lot of time in the wind tunnel at MIT to get the bike’s shape right.  The matte white interlocking carbon frame is slick and gorgeous and with all the electronics installed it still only weighs around 16 pounds.


Did you catch that phrase, “with all the electronics installed”?  Why in the wide, wide world of sports would a bicycle need a lot of electronics?  Well, going for a ride on this bike requires a little more thought than simply hopping on and just pedaling off down on the trail.  That’s because the Prius X is a mind-controlled bike that uses neurotransmitters in the rider’s helmet to switch gears by simply thinking about it.  That’s right, the derailleur shifts by mind control.


Parlee Cycles teamed up with the human/digital interface specialists Deeplocal who crammed the rider’s helmet with neurotransmitters that allow the rider to shift gears “without using a single one of their appendages”.  The neurotransmitter helmet is connected to an iPhone 4 mounted on the bike’s stem.  Once your brain gets synced through the helmet to the iPhone app you can shift gears by just thinking “shift up” or “shift down”.  The electrodes in the ‘neuron helmet’ pick up neuron-electrical brain activity to send signals to an electronic gear shifter controller mounted under the bike seat.  Apparently, the gear transitions couldn’t be smoother.  It supposedly takes a few minutes for the helmet to adjust to your individual brainwaves allowing for smooth gear transitions on the road or bike trail.  The iPhone will also choose gears according to your desired exercise level and pedaling cadence.  The bike is capable of remembering past behavior.  For instance, the bike will downshift the next time you ride past a location where you have downshifted before.  If shifting with your brain is a big deal because your thoughts are too clouded by that guy in the SUV that cut you off earlier, you can also do the shifting by simply touching the screen on the iPhone.  There are also traditional levers for low-tech manual shifting.  


There are plans to mass produce the Prius X Parlee (PXP) possibly in 2013, so you just might see one parked at your local coffee shop one day.  The technology is cool, impressive and really does work.  Then again, if I want to change a gear on my 29er using my mind, I can get my brain to fire off a signal to my finger to squeeze the Shimanos to get the derailleur to do my bidding.  At least, for now.

Sources: Prius Project, Parlee Cycles, Deeplocal, Global Graphica, Wired, Los Angeles Times, Autoblog Green, TreeHugger



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