Toyota recently showed off the new Prius and it has some interesting new features that don’t do anything for the fuel economy of the car but do add weight and use up more electricity. To be fair, they did increase the size of the motor from a 1.5 liter engine to a 1.8 liter engine and this will help with getting the car moving – it also helps to boost fuel economy. Toyota is doing what all car makers do when they get a successful car, they are adding more and more features to appease a larger audience. There will be heated seats, an option for leather upholstery, a roof made up of solar panels to run the air conditioner a few minutes before the driver gets in, and other electronic options that use up more of the car’s precious electricity.
The Prius is, first and foremost, a statement car. It says that you value the environment and you put a premium on efficiency and simplicity, something that all of these new features will detract from. Toyota seems to be taking a few steps back with this new car. What Toyota should have done was to do more to make the car even less wasteful, like lightening the whole vehicle by replacing aluminum body panels with carbon fiber ones. The idea of a solar panel roof is fine, but make it charge the batteries instead of just running the air conditioner when the car is empty – or even run the air conditioning when the car is running so the batteries aren’t drained. The best option would be converting the Prius from a hybrid to a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, which is something that all car makers should be working on.