On January 16, 1992, the Toyota Motor Corporation announced the Earth Charter, a document outlining goals to develop and market low emission vehicles.
In September 1993 Toyota R&D Executive Vice President Yoshirio Kimbara created G21, a committee to research cars for the 21st century. On February 1, 1994, the first official meeting of the G21 project team took place. The team determined the goal of G21 is to create a car that is resource and environmentally friendly while retaining the benefits of modern cars. The development effort was led by Takehisa Yaegashi, who was tasked with building a car that bridged the gap between electric and gasoline powered vehicles.
In 1994, Toyota executive Takeshi Uchiyamada was given the task of creating a new car that would be both fuel efficient and environmentally friendly. In late 1994, the G21 team designed a concept car with a hybrid engine for the 1995 Tokyo Motor Show. The vehicle was named “Prius,” the Latin word for “prior” or “before.” It was shown on October 27, 1995. In late 1996, test driving began.
After reviewing over 100 hybrid designs, the engineering team ultimately settled on a continuously variable transmission (CVT) design based largely on a 2000 TRW patent application, but many technical and engineering problems had to be solved within the three years that the team was given to bring the car to the Japanese market, a goal they barely achieved as the first Prius went on sale in December 1997. One major problem was the longevity of the battery, which needed to last between 7 and 10 years. The solution the engineers came up with was to keep the battery pack between 60% and 40% charged, proving to be the “sweet spot” for extending the battery life to roughly that of the other car components. A Toyota spokesperson stated that “Toyota chose this name because the Prius vehicle is the predecessor of cars to come.”
Initially, in December 10 1997, first Prius went on sale in the domestic market that is Japan. At the time of launch, first generation Prius, was the world’s first mass produced gasoline-electric hybrid car. Later in 2001, more powerful version was introduced in United States Of America.
The Prius is sold in over 90 markets, with Japan and the United States being its largest markets. Global cumulative Prius liftback sales reached the milestone 1 million vehicle mark in May 2008, 2 million in September 2010, and passed the 3 million mark in June 2013. Cumulative sales of 1 million Priuses were achieved in the US by early April 2011,and Japan reached the 1 million mark in August 2011.As of April 2016, the Prius liftback is the world’s top selling hybrid car with 3.73 million units sold.