The all-new second-generation Toyota Prius electric-gas hybrid vehicle made its world premiere at a press conference earlier this week at the 2003 New York Auto Show. "When the 2004 Prius arrives in dealerships this fall it will exceed all expectations, marking the arrival of hybrid technology into the mainstream consumer mindset," said Don Esmond, senior vice president and general manager, Toyota Division. "Furthermore, the debut of the Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive system will represent a major breakthrough in global-friendly powertrain technology." In 1997 the company says the Toyota Prius was the world's first mass-produced electric-gas hybrid vehicle. Bigger and better in every metric of comparison, Toyota says the all-new 2004 Prius will usher in a new era of electric-gas hybrid technology when it launches this fall. The new Prius will feature increased interior space, moving from a compact to the midsize class. Its new Hybrid Synergy Drive system will supply more power and performance, fuel economy, and emissions performance, says the company. The 2004 Prius will be the first Toyota equipped with the new high-voltage/high-power Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain. Like the original Toyota Hybrid System (THS) on the current Prius, Hybrid Synergy Drive is defined as a "full hybrid system." Unlike competitive systems currently on the market, the full hybrid system is capable of operating in either gas or electric modes, as well as a mode in which both the gas engine and electric motor are in operation. The advantages of a full hybrid system are numerous, according to Toyota. The most important, however, is that because the car can be run under certain conditions with electric power only, fuel consumption, and emissions, can be reduced significantly. A major difference between the new Hybrid Synergy Drive concept, and how it is improved over the current THS system centers on the duration of electric-mode driving and the peak power delivered electrically. The Hybrid Synergy Drive has a 50 percent more powerful 50-kilowatt drive-motor operating at up to 500 volts. This increased voltage and power is enabled by a newly adopted high-voltage power converter. Additionally, the generator in the new Prius has a higher peak operating speed that increases electric-mode operation in city and freeway slow-and-go operation. With 50 percent more electric power available and improved low-end torque from the drive motor, a significant boost in acceleration performance is possible, according to the company. Hybrid Synergy Drive is expected to increase fuel efficiency in the new Prius by 15 percent with combined mpg rising from the high 40's to the mid-50's. This will enable Prius to have the best fuel efficiency rating of any midsize vehicle sold in America, delivering twice the combined mileage rating of its closest competitor, says the company. The company says Hybrid Synergy Drive will improve acceleration performance from the mid- 12-second range to the mid- 10-second range. This acceleration level is comparable to the Toyota Camry LE four-cylinder. Finally, Hybrid Synergy Drive will enable Prius to be nearly 30 percent lower in emissions than the current ultra-clean Prius, producing nearly 90 percent fewer tailpipe pollutants than a conventional internal combustion engine. When it arrives this fall, Prius will be certified as a SULEV, or "Super-Ultra-Low-Emission-Vehicle" for tailpipe emissions in California and those states adopting California standards. In the rest of the country, Prius will be certified as Tier 2, Bin 3. In addition, in California and those states adopting the California rules, Prius will be certified as a PZEV category vehicle. PZEV, or "Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle" is a category composed of many elements. In addition to the SULEV exhaust standard, PZEV also requires meeting a zero fuel evaporative standard, a 150,000-mile durability demonstration and offering an extended emissions system warranty. The new Prius will be electronically controlled with by-wire throttle and shift control. The new by-wire shift control allows Prius to replace the traditional gearshift lever mounted on the floor or the steering column with tap-of-the-finger shifting of a small joystick mounted on the dash. A Smart Entry and Smart Start option allows keyless entry and keyless startup. As the driver reaches for the door handle, an on-board sensor will recognize the signal from a key in his pocket and automatically unlock the doors. Since the driver has already been security-cleared to enter the vehicle, he can leave the fob in his pocket, push a start button located on the dash, and drive away. The company says offered in a single, well-equipped trim level, Prius standard equipment will include ABS brakes, power windows, door locks and mirrors, and a unique electric inverter air conditioning system. Instead of running off the fan belt, the new inverter air conditioner is fully electrically operated. Not only does this improve fuel efficiency, it ensures passenger comfort, even when the gasoline engine is off and the car is being propelled only by the electric motor. "We've learned a lot about Prius since its launch in America two-and-a-half years ago, said Esmond. "With increased interior space, increased power and performance, best-in-class fuel economy, and best-in-market performance, we are more convinced than ever that the new Prius will continue to lead electric-gas hybrid technology into the mainstream market."