Prius History

Last Updated: Sun. 12/07/2008



The Partnership for the Next Generation of Vehicles (PNGV) was founded.  It was a 10-year project setup by the Clinton administration to federally help fund research into developing family-sized vehicles that could deliver 80 MPG efficiency.  All the American automotive companies were invited to participate, using the money the government provided.  Toyota was denied the opportunity to join because they were a Japanese automotive company.  Toyota, very upset by not being included, secretly began a project of its own.


October 1995

Toyota revealed a concept car, called Prius.  It used the a new propulsion system Toyota had created called EMS, which stands for "Energy Management System".  That design consisted of an electric-motor connected to a regular gasoline engine using a Cone & Belt type CVT.  The storage device for electricity was an ultra-capacitor, rather than a battery-pack.


October 1997

Toyota revealed the production version of Prius, exclaiming it would be available for purchase in just 3 months.  It was no longer a concept vehicle, or even a prototype.  It was the real thing, ready for sales to begin soon.  That absolutely horrified the American automotive companies.  Toyota already had a hybrid vehicle and they didn't even have prototypes developed yet.  This model used THS (Toyota Hybrid System), a design advanced beyond EMS.  It added another motor, replaced the ultra-capacitor with a battery-pack, and replaced the Cone & Belt CVT with the Planetary type.


December 1997

Sales of the "Original" generation of Prius began in Japan.  This included models years: 1998, 1999, 2000 (and 2001 in Japan only).  Worldwide sales would not begin until 3 years later.


Prius Generations:

  Engine HP
Engine kW
Engine RPM Redline

Motor HP
Motor kW
Motor Torque

0-60 MPH (seconds)

Tire Width
Tire Diameter

Battery-Pack Energy (W/kg)
Battery-Pack Voltage
Battery-Pack Weight (lbs)
Battery-Pack Section Type
Battery-Pack Section Count

Hybrid-System Voltage
















CLASSIC:  Touch-Sensitive version of the Multi-Display was introduced.

ICONIC:  Electric A/C was introduced.  Multi-Display size was increased.


December 1999

Toyota announced the next version of Prius would be available for sale on the American market in the second half of 2000, and began displaying a locked 2000 model at Auto Shows throughout the United States.


January 2000

The American automotive companies demonstrated their PNGV prototypes, a significant step toward establishing hybrid vehicles in the United States.  It appeared as though the age of hybrids was about to begin for all.


April 2000

On Earth Day, Toyota announced upcoming test-drive & purchase information for Prius in the United States.


May 2000

The first mega-size (nearly 9,000 members by September 2004) online discussion forum was established.  Those interested in Prius had found a very effective way of sharing information with each other.  They even attracted the interest of two Toyota executives in charge of the rollout of Prius in the United States, which ultimately provided a method of getting answers to very important questions about the hybrid system design.  (We whole-heartedly thank them for their participation!)


June 2000

Toyota debuted a purchase website, where those interested in purchasing a Prius would begin the process by filling out an online request form.  This method, later termed a "pioneer purchase", was the only way to initially get a Prius.  The quantity was so limited, this was a good way of making sure those interested would get one as quickly as possible.  Each Prius coming off the boat from Japan was assigned & delivered to a specific person with a "sold" status.  Unassigned purchases from a dealer's lot was only possible at that time by purchasing a used demo model.

Also, an owner website dedicated to helping other Prius owners was founded.  It later became known as


July 2000

The internet ordering system for Prius was established, allowing the opportunity for pioneers to order a Prius.


August 2000

Delivery of the "Classic" model began.  This immediately resulted in a massive backorder delay due to an overwhelming surge in consumer demand, significantly influenced by online discussions.

This model was a major upgrade to the Prius design.  The battery-pack became smaller & lighter, yet more powerful. (The packaging for the modules within the battery-pack was changed from the standard "D" to flat-rectangular. Besides the obvious physical benefits, that change also reduced the internal resistance, which is a significant electrical benefit.)  The engine was modified to provide greater horsepower (from 58 to 72) and help increase acceleration speed (from 14.1 to 12.5 seconds).  The Multi-Display was changed touch-sensitive, eliminating the need for external buttons.  This was sold as model years: 2001, 2002, 2003.  Sales were expanded to a worldwide market too, not just Japan anymore.


Early 2001

The plug was pulled on the PNGV project by the Bush administration.  All federal funding halted.  Nothing was required to be delivered anymore.  So the research abruptly ended.  The initiative was totally abandoned.  All was lost.  Hybrid enthusiasts were furious, inspiring endeavors to ensure hybrids would not be forgotten entirely.


January 2002

The online purchase request process ended.  No further orders would ever be taken.  Once deliveries of those in the queue were complete, regular purchases from the dealer's lot would begin.

The first non-commercial online discussion forum created for Prius was founded, called


Mid 2002

All the internet orders had finally been filled.  Unassigned Prius began to showing up on dealer's lots, available for immediate purchase... just like any other vehicle.


Late 2002

Toyota announced they were now making a profit from the sale of each Prius.  The success of hybrids had now become apparent.


April 2003

Toyota announced another significant upgrade to Prius hybrid system, called HSD (Hybrid Synergy Drive), as well as a fundamental body change.


July 2003

"Pioneer" orders for the 2004 model began.  It was a special opportunity for owners that had taken the initiative to become "pioneer" purchasers of the classic model, where they could take delivery of the Iconic model before anyone else.  3 weeks later, the ordering process was opened up to everyone.


September 2003

Demand for the upcoming new Prius had already exceeded the anticipated supply, even though deliveries had not even begun yet.


October 2003

Deliveries of the Prius "HSD" began.  It was overwhelming success.  The backorder list grew even bigger, forcing Toyota to increase production.


November 2003

A new type of online discussion forum dedicated to Prius was founded, called


December 2003

Toyota announced an increase in Prius production, but it still wasn't enough to satisfying the rapidly growing demand.


May 2004

Just like with the classic model, this Prius had begun to accumulate a long list of very prestigious awards, including:


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