Clearing the air in style

Prius aerodynamic design

Thanks to its numerous technological advances, Toyota Prius’ class-leading efficiency and innovative design has been bettered and bettered again over four distinct generations. Its wind tunnel-tuned aerodynamic being a key part of the package…

Ever since its inception back in 1997, Prius has been a forerunner in the automotive industry, constantly breaking new technological ground pushing the envelope.

By realising the joy of driving with a newfound respect for the environment, in the following years Prius has continued to enhance its world-renowned efficiency without ever compromising on response. And a big part of this success stems from its pioneering aerodynamics.

Maximising aerodynamic efficiency

At 100km/h 70% of resistance on a vehicle is air and this drag can have a dramatic effect on fuel economy. The less wind drag a vehicle creates, the less power it takes to push it through the air, which means less fuel is consumed.

In terms of design, the original Prius was a relatively traditional cab-forward shape combined with a high-strength steel body structure. Uniquely proportioned between a city car and a small family sedan, it boasted an incredibly low drag coefficient for the time of cd 0.29.

The second generation – bigger than the outgoing model – adopted a iconic five-door ‘Kammback’ design, which continued into the third generation, boasting more of a teardrop shape and a drag coefficient of cd 0.26, scything through the air even more gracefully than its predecessor.

Fine-tuning the airflow

By the time the third incarnation was being developed, no aerodynamic aspect was overlooked, from the angle of the windscreen to the position and curve of the wing mirrors. The result was one of the most drag-free production cars in the world utilising natural aerodynamic ‘carving’ and wind-cheating tricks – subtle spoilers, a flat underbody – to minimise air impact, suppress airflow around the wheels and improve high-speed stability.

Third-generation Prius’ distinctive, extended roof line was punctuated even more dramatically, its upright ‘Kamm effect’ converging the vehicle’s contours into a more aero-efficient teardrop shape. This abrupt finish limited unnecessary back-end length and weight, further reducing turbulence and creating the model’s iconic silhouette.

The Prius achieved a 14 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions compared to the second-generation model, slipping through the air with a trailblazing drag coefficient of just cd 0.25.

Keep on pioneering

Just as the original rewrote the rulebook, the current fourth-generation Prius elevates the model back where it belongs: at the forefront of cutting-edge design, efficiency and innovation. As the model evolves and our aerodynamic knowledge improves, the Prius gets even more slippery and the driving experience more pleasurable.

After months of wind tunnel testing in Toyota’s Aerodynamics Laboratory – which simulates how air travels over, under and around our cars at speeds of up to 250 km/h, enough wind to lift the average passenger plane into the air –the new fourth-generation Prius emerged with a dramatic sporty stance enhanced by a lower roof line, bonnet and sleek proportions to record a class-leading drag coefficient of cd 0.24.

There’s little doubt that, with our continued research and desire for improved efficiency, Prius will be smoothly cutting through the air with grace for many generations to come.

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