Surprise Hits: How the Toyota Prius proved its mettle


In Henry Ford's day, inventors began to wonder if gasoline was really the best fuel to power an automobile engine. Almost a century later, we're still fueling up with gas. But there are signs that we won't be forever.

The Toyota (TM) Prius is now synonymous with environmentally friendly cars, but it didn't start out that way. In 1997, people criticized the first generation of the Prius for being undersized, underpowered, and overpriced. The Japanese auto giant also had to address the public's huge learning curve, answering basic questions: "Are the battery packs fire hazards?" (No.) "Can a Prius run on electricity when it runs out of gas?" (No.)

Originally published