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Chief Engineer Says New Generation Prius Senses the Future of Automobiles

Involved in the planning of Prius since 1998, Chief Engineer Akihiko Otsuka was in charge of hybrid minivans such as the Estima hybrid vehicle (sold as a Signature Class model in New Zealand) and Alphard hybrid vehicle.

In the past four years, since the initial planning phase, Otsuka has been involved with the new generation Prius.

Otsuka said that he recognised that hybrid technology evolution such as motor, battery and inverter technology would be at some stage directly connected to the now evolving fuel cell vehicles and electric vehicles.

"I believe that the Prius is the top runner in environmental and fuel efficiency performance and is an impressive car that lets you sense the future of automobiles," he said.

Otsuka said recognising that Prius was the flagship of hybrid vehicles, Toyota made sure to emphasise fuel efficiency and developed a new hybrid system specifically for the new model Prius.

He said they focussed on achieving top level fuel efficiency through the new design, with emphasis on aerodynamics, minimising air resistance when driving.

"To reduce power consumption we adopted LED (Light Emitting Diode) for the low beams of the headlamps and also the tail and stop lamps."

Efforts were also focussed on conserving power in the air conditioning system and maximising the petrol engine efficiency through such technologies as the exhaust heat recovery system.

Otsuka said the new Prius was developed with careful assessment in the essence of technologies and also aggressively incorporates technology necessary for the future of automobiles.

Otsuka joined Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC), Japan in 1986 in the noise and vibration development division and worked on vehicles such as Supra and Celica.

In 1994 he became manager of the vehicle engineering division of Toyota Motor Europe Marketing and Engineering. He was responsible for testing and tuning all vehicles introduced in Europe.

From 1998 to 2006 Otsuka returned to TMC in planning as an assistance chief engineer for Prius and Estima hybrid. In 2007 he was promoted to Prius' chief engineer.