Pushing Buttons Like the Jetsons – 2012 Prius Adds Revised Styling and Infotainment Features

Posted by John Dolan | Posted in Hybrids, News | Posted on 20-02-2012

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The Prius surpasses itself once again!  For the 2012 model year, the global hybrid sales champion features an advanced infotainment system with mild exterior and interior styling revisions.  The 2012 Prius Liftback (the new name for the original member of the new Prius extended family) is still the same fuel economy master it always has been but with expanded options and some added content that includes, of all things, car-generated spaceship sounds.

The best-selling hybrid in the world offers Toyota’s signature Entune infotainment systems for 2012, including a suite of connectivity features which are accessed via your smart phone.  The Toyota Entune system is a collection of popular mobile applications and data services that are offered with the standard audio systems with three years of complimentary access on the Prius Three, Four and Five models.  Once a smart phone is connected to the vehicle using Bluetooth wireless technology or a USB cable, Entune’s features are operated using the vehicle’s controls, or for some services by voice recognition.  Entune offers mobile apps for Bing that facilitate point of interest searches for destinations such as shopping or dining, Open Table for restaurant searches and reservations, MovieTickets.com, Pandora and iHeartRadio.  Entune data services include a fuel price guide, sports scores for your favorite teams, stocks, traffic and weather information.  Depending on the Prius model all of this is delivered through a 6.1 or 7-inch touch screen.

The 2012 Prius is unbeatable when it comes to its audio capabilities.  The standard AM/FM CD player unit offers MP3/WMA playback with six speakers, a USB port for iPod connectivity and Bluetooth for audio streaming and hands-free phone capability.  The display also provides vehicle hybrid system operation feedback and fuel economy data. On screen menus also allow the driver to customize specific vehicle settings such as door-locking operation, Smart Key features and auto headlamp shut-off settings.

The third-generation Prius has plenty of other changes for 2012 some subtle, others not.  Outside it gets a slightly re-styled front-end with new headlights and LED daytime running lights.  In the back, the Prius gets new tail lights and some models get new wheels for 2012.  Behind the wheel the styling changes include revised graphics on the multi-information display with a new Eco Savings display that shows fuel savings versus other vehicles.  The Prius Two comes with re-styled 15-inch black alloys with new wheel covers and standard display audio with an integrated back-up camera.  The Three model now gets navigation as a standard feature along with Entune, a back-up camera, Sirius XM satellite radio and a revised smart-key system that now opens three doors.

The Prius Four model includes that system plus eight JBL GreenEdge speakers and an eight-channel JBL amplifier.  GreenEdge audio technology is quite cool really and since it significantly reduces electric draw on the vehicle which in turn, enhances fuel economy, it is perfectly at home on the Prius.  It also does not hurt that JBL GreenEdge sound systems pump out the equivalent of 600 watts of sound while using only 120 watts of power either!  The Prius Four also provides the driver with a ‘first’ for the Prius — an eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat!  Then there is the ‘enhanced’ comfort of the new leather-imitating SofTex-trimmed seats! ‘Enhanced’ because no animals were injured in the making of these seats since they do not use real leather hides.

When the Solar Roof Package is ordered on the Prius Four, that system is further upgraded with a Head-up Display and a Premium HDD (Hard Disc Drive) Navigation System, which uses a seven-inch touch-screen with split-screen capability.  Other Prius models offer a navigation system with the 6.1 inch screen that is a little more ‘Garmin-like’ in its appearance and functionality.

The Solar roof package is the world’s first sliding glass moon roof equipped with solar panels located over the rear seating area that power an interior ventilation system.  The photo-voltaic system from Kyocera Solar powers a ventilation fan that helps reduce interior temperature when the vehicle is parked directly in the sun.  Cool down time is shorter when the driver returns to the Prius, thus reducing  air conditioner usage.

The top of the line Prius Five model’s Advanced Technology Package for 2012 includes an HDD Navigation System, the Head-up Display, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Pre-Collision System and Lane Keep Assist.  The Pre-Collision System retracts the front seat belts and pressurizes the brakes when the system detects that a crash is unavoidable. Lane Keep Assist alerts the driver when the Prius wanders out of it’s lane.

The new Head-up Display (HUD) is maybe the most interesting change in the Prius for 2012.   The feature projects information like speed, navi details and hybrid efficiency onto the windshield.  The system, which originated in the field of aviation, improves safety by keeping the driver’s eyes on the road instead of the complex dashboard display.  This is the first time HUD has been available on the US spec Prius and it is an option on Prius Four and Five models.

For those who want a sportier Prius, there is the PLUS Performance package which gives the world-class hybrid a more aggressive attitude as well as sharper handling. Toyota Racing Development (TRD) engineered the package to deliver a more aggressive and lower-profile stance.  It includes a custom body kit that was aerodynamically designed to further reduce the already remarkable coefficient of drag of the Prius while retaining its already great fuel efficiency.  Track width and rolling resistance is increased while unsprung weight is reduced with the addition of seventeen inch forged alloy wheels.  Lowering springs reduce the vehicle’s stance by 1.1 inches in the front and 1.3 inches in the rear to enhance steering response and cornering ability. A rear sway bar helps reduce body lean for flatter cornering.  The PLUS Package can be ordered from Toyota or dealer installed.

The Prius is an Eco Icon that is also known for its trend-setting design and features.  With all the updates and additional content available for 2012 the range of options for the Prius buyer has expanded with only a moderate uptick in price.  Still, many of us choose the world-class hybrid for its Hybrid Synergy Drive and its record of continuous improvement in fuel economy and low emissions.  For those of us who are fuel misers and not necessarily swayed by added content and additional option choices there will always be the time-honored Prius Two. The Prius base — all the legendary Prius MPGs without all the change-ups!

While the big news with the 2012 Prius improvements has to be the addition of the Entune multimedia system for those who live life through the connectivity of their smart phones, there is another, not so subtle change.  The Prius makes a new sound, a sound alert system to be more precise.  The 2012 Prius, the Prius v and the Prius Plug-in model and every hybrid and electric vehicle going forward will now have a sound- emitting Vehicle Proximity Notification System (VPNS) as standard equipment.  Toyota engineers designed the new audible alert system to be recognizable as a car yet be futuristic enough to represent the advanced state of Hybrid Synergy Drive.  Just like Nissan, Ford and every other manufacturer of hybrids and electric cars, Toyota engineers have come up with a sound that is a little like a cross between a Jetsons-like spaceship and well, an amplified electric motor.  The VPNS is only activated at low speeds when the internal combustion engine is off, such as in a parking lot.

The Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010 has made all these new science-fiction sounds coming from our hybrids and EVs mandatory out of rising safety concerns for pedestrians, in particular the blind and the elderly and bikers.  An oft-silent-running hybrid or EV does present a clear danger to pedestrians.  Yet it is ironic that after decades of efforts by automakers to produce vehicles that are more quiet we finally get there and the cars are so quiet that we have to add a noisemaker, albeit a futuristic noisemaker.  It only activates at parking lot speeds and to be honest, it is barely noticeable to those inside the Prius.  So, it doesn’t look like the days of the silent running Prius are particularly over.  Who knows?  Soon drivers might download “vroomtones” for their cars, the way they download ringtones to their smart phones today!

Toyota Newsroom, AutoblogGreen, Scientific American, US Congress GovTrack, Energyboom.com, Engadget.com, Hybridcars.com

 

 

VPNS Demonstration

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1YVwM3HpII]

 

 

The Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive System

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CFxQGWAaho&w=420&h=315]

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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="http://blog.smartmotors.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/2012-toyota-prius_100350438_l-300×225.jpg"

alt=”” width=”300″ height=”225″ />GreenCarReports.com 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).

Sources:

pressroom.toyota.com, greencarreports.com

 

 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AE-pE3bXhAk&w=560&h=315]

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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 Edmunds.com 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), http://driftjapan.com/blog/

wikipedia, Edmunds.com, http://www.ft86club.comhttps://www.frs-scion.com/, FR-SForum.com

 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nw6WnrqMDTw&w=560&h=315]

 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkOfUcoKWDE&w=560&h=315]

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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

 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWzdWMapJ-c]

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Hybrids Parade About Madison In Record Numbers

Posted by John Dolan | Posted in Community, Events, Hybrids, News | Posted on 26-07-2011

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Hundreds of hybrid car

owners paraded around the west side of Madison on Sunday and set a Guinness World Record for the longest procession of hybrid vehicles.  Paul Cooley, showroom manager and event organizer for Smart Motors set the official tally at 208 hybrids completing a 2.1 mile loop in around 20 minutes.  The parade began and ended at Smart Motors.

 

Hybrids On Parade was described by one of the Madison Police officers assigned to direct the event as the “quietest parade ever”.  For good reason, traveling at steady parade speed of around 5 mph most of the hybrids were able to lock into electric-only mode for the majority of the drive.  The parade consisted mostly of Priuses, and these were largely of the 2004 to 2009 (generation II) vintage.  Other vehicles included: Camry and Highlander hybrids, Lexus hybrids (including a stately LS600h L), Honda Insights, Ford Fusion and Escape hybrids, and a couple of Chevy Volts.

 

 

Many hybrid owners were in town to participate in Madison’s sixth annual Green Drive Expo.  Although hybrid drivers from as far away as Florida, Texas, Colorado and Quebec joined in the record-setting event, the majority of the hybrid drivers were from the Madison area.  In fact, that Sunday morning had a definite ‘family reunion’ feeling to it as local Madison friends and neighbors, many of them supporters of hybrid technology for over a decade,  joined together in a spirit of green camaraderie to set the record and celebrate ‘green driving’.  The world record is further evidence (as if we needed it!) that Madison is a hub of environmentalism and ‘green driving’!

 

The previous Guinness World Record for the longest parade of hybrid cars was 140 during an event organized by Toyota Belgium at Tervuren, Belgium in August of last year.

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Tag all of your Hybrids on Parade posts on twitter

Posted by Smart Motors | Posted in News | Posted on 25-07-2011

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With #theHOP

That’s right, if you are posting photos, videos or comments about yesterday’s “Hybrids on Parade” make sure you use the twitter hashtag #theHOP

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