One year ago, Automotive DesignLine and EETimes took a Toyota Prius fresh from the dealer and tore it down to see what makes it tick. The resulting series of stories became some of our best read features ever.
Today, with fuel prices continuing to soar, the hybrid cars are selling faster than ever. If you missed them then, or would like a review, here are direct links to features in that seriesalong with a time lapse video (at the end of the first article) of our crack engineers taking the vehicle apart, and a subsequent take on the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid, targeted to debut in 2010.
Tried-and-true design concepts drive Prius: A teardown of the Toyota Prius shows design quality in a fuel-saving package enabled by the deft use of both conventional and advanced electronic design and packaging technologies and techniques, particularly in the case of the inverter/converter, the user-interface/dash module, the engine control module (ECM), the navigation/display system, the airbag control module, and the anti-skid system.
Inside the Prius: Part 1 - The airbag control module: A look inside the airbag control module (ACM) shows a host of analog components for the system's critical front end, including two MEMS-based accelerometers made by Denso of Japan.
Inside the Prius: Part 2 - The dashboard display system: A peek behind the dashboard module uncovers a vacuum fluorescent display from Noritake or Futaba along with support chips that include a 5-volt regulator, mystery Toshiba chip (clock?), and serial EEPROM, all designed to give the driver maximum information with minimum distraction from the road.
Inside the Prius: Part 3 - Skid-control module plays it safe: Here's what's inside the stability control module.
Inside the Prius: Part 4 - Controllers keep dual motors humming: In many respects, the Prius can be considered to have two engine controllers: one for the traditional, 1.5-liter gasoline engine and another for the electric motors used to power the car alternatively.
Inside the Prius: Part 5 - Inverter/converter is hybrid's power broker: The inverter/converter unit (ICU) is the ringmaster of all of the electrical conversion. The hybrid's two motor generator units have distinct roles: MG1 recharges the high-voltage (approximately 200-V) nickel metal hydride battery pack and also applies direct power to drive the MG2 assembly. MG1 additionally serves as the electric motor used to start the gasoline internal combustion engine. MG2 is the primary electric drive motor when energized and performs the reverse function to serve as the power generator during regenerative braking.
Inside the Prius: Part 6 - Navigation unit bridges automotive and consumer electronics: With increasing frequency, car buyers are spending big for the convenience of in-car navigation. Not unusual for factory-option navigation, the Prius mapping and guidance system adds almost $2,000 to the sticker price.
All charged up: Chevy's Volt plug-in hybrid: GM engineers are passionate about their "range extended electric vehicle" project.
Help is on the way: Choosing a high mileage carhybrids, clean-diesels, and gasoline powered cars.