Toyota will release the first mass-produced gasoline/electric
hybrid vehicle in the U.S. this year. Configured in parallel, the engine and
electric motor are connected to the drive train.
The company claims that the ratio of power provided by each system
is constantly controlled to keep the vehicle in its most efficient mode to
deliver a city/highway fuel economy rating of 52/45 mpg.
More than 35,000 already have been sold in Japan since its release
in 1997. However, the US and Japan versions are designed differently. Engineers
at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) test drove the American
version and found it to handle very well in the Colorado mountains. "Because of
the steeply sustained mountain grades, Colorado provides excellent testing
grounds for an HEV (hybrid electric vehicle)," says a test engineer. "The
engines in the Japanese and American Prius are the same, but the American
version performs better because Toyota engineers have increased the engine speed
from around 3,500-4,000 to 4,500 rpm, providing higher engine horsepower." For
more information see http://www.toyota.com.
What should be the perception of a product’s real-world performance with regard to the published spec sheet? While it is easy to assume that the product will operate according to spec, what variables should be considered, and is that a designer obligation or a customer responsibility? Or both?
Biomimicry has already found its way into the development of robots and new materials, with researchers studying animals and nature to come up with new innovations. Now thanks to researchers in Boston, biomimicry could even inform the future of electrical networks for next-generation displays.
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