Hybrid Synergy Drive system

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Hybrid Synergy Drive system

Toyota uses its sophisticated Hybrid Synergy Drive system to power today’s Prius, a follow-on to the first-generation Toyota Hybrid System. Both automakers are now offering their second generation hybrid vehicles. In 2003, Honda introduced the five-passenger Honda Civic Hybrid, which offers a more powerful adaptation of the IMA system. A completely redesigned and more powerful Prius appeared as a 2004 model.

Both the Toyota and Honda hybrids are parallel configurations, with wheels driven by both their internal combustion engine and electric motor. In detail, however, they work quite differently.
The Honda IMA system’s electric motor/generator supplies additional power to the gasoline engine when needed for acceleration or when driving demands are greater, such as when climbing grades, thus the designation “motor assist.” The Honda gasoline engine always provides propulsion.

Things are reversed with Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive, which finds the Prius starting out on battery electric power. The gasoline engine seamlessly starts up to provide additional power during acceleration, at higher speeds, or when driving up grades. This ability to run at times on battery power alone is an important distinction to some folks, since this means Toyota’s hybrids are actually zero emission vehicles during the time they’re electrically driven. Honda’s hybrids cannot do this.

The Prius uses a four-cylinder, 1.5-liter Atkinson cycle engine. The four-stroke Atkinson cycle, invented by James Atkinson in 1882, is different than the Otto cycle engine we’re used to driving in very distinct ways. Compared to the Otto cycle, where the intake valve is closed near bottom-dead-center, the Atkinson cycle does not close the intake valve at BDC, but leaves it open as the piston rises on the compression stroke. What this means is that some of the air/fuel charge is pushed back out and into the intake manifold and is used in other cylinders. This reduces the volume of the air/fuel mixture that’s compressed and combusted without severely restricting the throttle opening. Restricting throttle opening results in large pumping losses and greatly reduced efficiency. This method of reducing power output without incurring large pumping losses makes the Prius engine much more efficient than a conventional Otto cycle engine under most operating conditions. Effectively, the use of the Atkinson cycle allows the Prius engine to operate quite efficiently at relatively low power levels while still having sufficient power for climbing hills at freeway speeds.

The Prius uses the same basic 1.5 liter engine as the Toyota Echo, where the engine is rated at 108 horsepower at 6000 rpm. The Atkinson cycle allows the engine to be downsized to 76 horsepower at 4600 rpm while still being as efficient, or perhaps more so, than the Echo variant. Also, adding a supercharger to the Atkinson cycle results in the Miller cycle like that used in the Mazda Millenia.

Variable intake valve timing (VVT-I) reduces cylinder pressure to eliminate knocking, important because the engine has a 13:1 compression ratio. A high compression ratio, while good for performance and efficiency, can lead to pre-ignition (knocking), which can damage an engine if unchecked. The aluminum, dual overhead camshaft (DOHC) 16-valve engine produces 76 horsepower at 5000 rpm and 82 lbs-ft of torque at 4200 rpm. Because the engine speed is limited, it can use smaller and lighter components for improved fuel economy. The engine earns an Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emission Vehicle (AT-PZEV) rating, is a Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (SULEV), and has an EPA rating of 60 mpg city/51 mpg highway, for a combined estimated 55 mpg fuel economy rating.

Toyota’s HSD also takes special measures to address cold start emissions. Since combustion is not as efficient when an engine is cold and a catalytic converter must reach operating temperature before it can treat exhaust gases, cold starts result in greater emissions levels. The HSD system stores hot coolant in a three-liter vacuum bottle and dumps this into the engine during a cold start to help remedy this.