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Toyota announced earlier this month that its 2004 Prius will be completely redesigned. As a participant in a research panel, I was able to see the new Prius first hand last year and its enhanced feature set is impressive. Some highlights include the Hybrid Synergy Drive which allows greater efficiency in controling the electric motor and other hybrid components, a widely improved, second-generation version of the Toyota Hybrid System; a new voltage converter between the battery and the electric motor that raises the operating voltage to almost twice its former level and results in a more powerful motor; a more compact battery pack that allows for more cargo space; and comes PZEV (Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle) certified - the lowest emissions rating of any production car (except for EVs and eventually fuel cells), a notch better than SULEV. Full details are now available on the Toyota web site. We believe Honda and Acura will not be far behind with an announcement of equal interest, although it may not be immediate.
 
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