Toyota Prius Model History




Generation 1

Generation II

Generation III

Years of manufacture 

1997 – 1999

2000 – 2003

2003 – Present

Chassis prefix




Petrol Engine HP




Petrol Engine RPM Redline




Electric Motor HP




Electric Motor Kw




Electric Motor Torque




0-96 kph (seconds)




Battery-Pack Energy (W/kg)




Battery-Pack Voltage




Battery-Pack Weight (kg)




Battery-Pack Section Type




Battery-Pack Section Count




Hybrid-System Voltage





















A Summary Of Differences Between Models

There are a number of significant differences between the Toyota  Prius Generation 1, the Toyota Prius Generation II and the Toyota Prius Generation III. Below is a brief summary of the main differences.










Toyota Prius Generation I Hybrid

The Toyota Prius Generation 1 Prius was only sold in Japan. It was a "shakedown" model. Toyota like to extensively test any new technology on their own market, "close to home", to try and iron out any problems before they release it internationally. This is one of the reasons Toyota have the reputation of being the most reliable car maker in the world. There was about 70,000 Toyota Prius Generation 1 sold in Japan. A small number of these, significant by Toyota's standards, had problems with the battery pack. As the Generation 1 Prius was only sold new in Japan, there are no English Service manuals for them and the diagnostic equipment that is now in most professional workshops throughout New Zealand aren’t compatible with the Generation 1 Prius. So if you do get a Toyota Prius Generation I and you have a problem with it, you will have trouble finding someone who can fix it. On the other hand, the Toyota Prius Generation II and the Toyota Prius Generation III are compatible with all diagnostic equipment in Toyota franchised workshops as well as over 120 workshops nationwide that are independent from Toyota. So in the unlikely event you have a problem with your Toyota Prius Generation II or III, help is close by.

There are some New Zealand car dealers who are importing these Toyota Prius Generation 1, perhaps not realising the difference between the Toyota Prius Generation 1 and the Toyota Prius Generation II.


The Generation II Prius was released worldwide in 2000 through to mid 2003. These cars were fully sorted. As you can imagine, Toyota wouldn't want to risk damaging their reputation as the most reliable car maker in the world by releasing anything other than a completely sorted car, especially onto their largest market, the U.S. Although the Generation 1 Prius and the Generation II Prius look almost identical (you can tell them apart by the  wide black plastic strips around the front and rear bumper on the Generation 1 Prius) there are a number of important mechanical differences.

Toyota Prius Generation II Hybrid

The most significant is the Generation II Prius battery pack, which is a big advancement on the Generation 1 Prius battery pack. For instance, the battery pack on the Generation II Prius is so much smaller than the Generation 1 Prius battery pack that the back seats are able to fold down allowing you to put long objects through from the boot into the cabin. In the Generation 1 Prius the battery pack is so large it takes up the entire space between the boot and the cabin. However the most important advancement was on the reliability of the battery pack in the Generation II Prius. Toyota has sold over 500,000 Generation II and III Prius worldwide and say they have never had to supply a battery pack for replacement due to wear and tear. click here to read this press release


The Generation III Prius was released worldwide in 2003 and is still a current model. Although the Generation III Prius is very different aesthetically from the Generation II Prius, both models use the same basic technology. Both use the same type of electric motor although the Generation III has increased power output. Both use the same petrol engine, although the tuning is different in the Generation III allowing it to rev out to 5000revs (up from 4500 on the Generation II Prius) and the same type of battery is used - the “Ni-Mh” – however the battery pack on the Generation III Prius is LESS powerful than that of the

 Toyota Prius Generation III Hybrid

Generation II.  However the Generation III Prius uses control electronics to boost the voltage in the Hybrid system to allow 500volts (up from 273 in the Generation II Prius) to be delivered to the electric motors making the Generation III Prius a more powerful car than the Generation II. The Toyota Prius Generation II is the same size as a Toyota Corolla and has similar performance to a 1.8 litre Corolla Automatic (the Prius is slightly more powerful). Toyota say the Toyota Prius Generation III is a "Camry sized vehicle". It has the same 0-100km time as a 2.4 litre Camry automatic of the same design year (2003). Basically both models of Prius have equivalent or better performance when compared to there non-hybrid counterparts while both achieving around 50% petrol savings (5 litres/100km).




The Partnership for the Next Generation of Vehicles (PNGV) was founded. It was a 10-year project setup in America by the Clinton administration to help fund research into developing family-sized vehicles that could deliver 80 MPG efficiency. All the American automotive companies were invited to participate, using the money the government provided. Toyota was denied the opportunity to join because they were a Japanese automotive company. Toyota, very upset by not being included, secretly began a project of its own.


October 1995

Toyota revealed a concept car called "Prius". It used a new propulsion system Toyota had created called EMS, which stands for "Energy Management System". That design consisted of an electric motor connected to a regular gasoline engine using a Cone & Belt type CVT. The storage device for electricity was an ultra-capacitor, rather than a battery-pack. 


October 1997

Toyota revealed the production version of Prius, claiming it would be available for purchase in just 3 months. It was no longer a concept vehicle, or even a prototype. It was the real thing, ready for sales to begin soon. That absolutely horrified the American automotive companies. Toyota already had a hybrid vehicle and they didn't even have prototypes developed yet. This model used THS (Toyota Hybrid System), a design advanced beyond EMS. It added another motor, replaced the ultra-capacitor with a battery-pack, and replaced the Cone & Belt CVT with the planetary type.



Sales of the "Generation I” Prius began in Japan. Worldwide sales of the Prius would not begin until 3 years later.


Generation I Prius was on sale in Japan only in the years 1997, 1998, 1999, (some Generation I Prius, although only manufactured until the end of 1999, weren’t registered in Japan until early 2000 so these were registered as 2000 cars.)



December 1999

Toyota announced the next version of Prius would be available for sale on the American market in the second half of 2000, and began displaying a locked 2000 model at Auto Shows throughout the United States.



Sales of the "Generation II” Prius began in Asia, America, UK, Europe and Australia in limited numbers. This immediately resulted in a massive backorder delays in all countries the Prius was released in due to an overwhelming surge in consumer demand. (The Generation II Prius was not released onto the New Zealand market, probably because there simply weren’t enough.)


This model was a major upgrade to the Prius design. The battery-pack became smaller & lighter, yet more powerful. (The packaging for the modules within the battery-pack was changed from the standard "D" to flat-rectangular. Besides the obvious physical benefits the change also reduced the internal resistance, which gives a significant electrical benefit.) The engine was modified to provide greater horsepower (from 58 to 72) and help increase acceleration speed (from 14.1 to 12.5 seconds from 0 – 96km). The Multi-Display was changed to a touch-sensitive model, eliminating the need for external buttons.


This was sold as model years: 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003.


Late 2002

Toyota announced they were now making a profit from the sale of each Prius. The success of hybrids had now become apparent.


April 2003

Toyota announced another significant upgrade to Prius hybrid system, called HSD (Hybrid Synergy Drive), as well as a fundamental body change.


September 2003

Demand for the upcoming new Prius had already exceeded the anticipated supply, even though deliveries had not even begun yet.


October 2003

Deliveries of the “Generation III” Prius began in some countries. It was an overwhelming success. The backorder list grew even bigger, forcing Toyota to increase production. 


November 2003

Toyota New Zealand does the official release of the “Generation III” Prius.


December 2003

Toyota announced an increase in Prius production, but it still wasn't enough to satisfying the rapidly growing demand.

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