Award Winner 2006
The three Japanese engineers Takeshi Uchiyamada, Takehisa Yaegashi and Yuichi Fujii, supported by Toyota’s highest management have jointly been awarded the 2006 City of Göteborg International Environment Prize for their outstanding, goal-oriented and vital contributions to the development of Prius, the world’s first commercial hybrid automobile of which more than half a million models have been sold thus far.
The pioneers behind the hybrid technology of the Toyota Prius are three Japanese engineers: Takeshi Uchiyamada, Takehisa Yaegashi and Yuichi Fujii. Today more than one million Toyota Prius vehicles are manufactured every year – and the technology is also sold to other car manufacturers.
When Toyota in the beginning of the 90’s decided to develop a car suitable for the 21st century it had two aspects in mind: the Environment and Energy efficiency. At this time petrol was relatively cheap and a number fuel thirsty city jeeps appeared on the market. To be able to reach their target of halving fuel consumption the Toyota engineers decided that a hybrid, i.e. a car that ran both on electricity and petrol was the only feasible option. A car where all excess energy could be utilised.
A new car normally takes 8-10 years to develop. The engineers involved in the Prius Project were barely given 4 years. They struggled with several new challenges to make it work:
-A new type of battery that could be recharged multiple times without becoming overheated and that had a sufficient life span
-Smooth transitions between the electric engine and the internal combustion engine
-Finding room for a large battery, an electric engine and an internal combustion engine
When Mr. Fujii was in Göteborg to accept the City of Göteborg International Environment Prize he said:
“My boss said we had to develop a prototype that met these goals within one year. In December 1995 we almost had a prototype but it didn’t roll. Our boss was extremely pleased. Then he said “Now we’ll produce it. You have 22 months to make it happen.”
They pulled it off and 22 months later the first Toyota Prius cars rolled out of the plant.
A hybrid car has two engines – a normal internal combustion engine and an electric engine. The electric engine runs on a battery that is charged with excess energy from the internal combustion engine. When the car is freewheeling downhill or breaking, the electric engine serves as a generator. In addition, the petroleum engine switches off when the car stands still. In a normal car all this excess energy turns into heat that is ventilated out.
The next challenge is to combine the hybrid technology with engines that are run on non-fossil fuels, for example biofuel or ethanol.
Prize winners Mr. Uchiyamada, Mr. Yaegashi and Mr. Fujii donated all of the one million Swedish crowns prize money to Ekocentrum in Göteborg. The purpose of Toyota’s donation is to make it possible for more compulsory school students to visit Ekocentrum over the coming years to view the foundation’s exhibition on the environment and learn more about its educational work.
Since 1993 Ekocentrum is an independent non-profit Ecocentre that is not only Europe’s largest eco-exhibition of its kind, its curriculum and its lectures are a source of inspiration that provide good examples of how to achieve ecological, sustainable development.
”The 2006 City of Göteborg International Environment Prize, one million Swedish crowns, is jointly awarded to Takeshi Uchiyamada at Toyota Motor Corporation, Takehisa Yaegashi at Toyota Technical Development Corporation and Yuichi Fujii at Panasonic EV Energy. They receive the price for their outstanding, purposeful and critical contributions to the development of Prius, the world’s first commercial hybrid automobile, of which so far half a million have been sold.
The three engineers have been part of a project team supported by Toyota’s highest management, which under the leadership of Eiji Toyoda, Shoichro Toyoda and Hiroshi Okuda as early as 1993 bravely committed to develop and manufacture a car for the future, halving fuel consumption and with far lower emission levels than at the time were considered feasible.
The hybrid technology may lead to a dramatic improvement of the air quality in cities around the world and, in a longer perspective, to reduce the impact of motor traffic on global climate change. The technology is built on a unique and very effective combination of electric and internal combustion engines. Prius has already set an example for other hybrid-based car, bus and truck models on the current market as well as in vehicles under development. The hybrid technology also constitutes an important link to tomorrow’s so-called plug-in hybrids, electric cars and fuel cell cars.
This year’s award fulfils the Jury’s criteria remarkably well; the criteria of more effective utilisation of resources, of a technical breakthrough and being a process driver in the world, especially in Göteborg. The city is a pioneer with its environmental car project, which has consequencially led to the largest number of hybrid cars per city citizen in Europe. Göteborg is becoming an European centre for research in, and the production of, hybrid cars.”
|Vice president Takeshi Uchiyamada led the project successfully and created the organisational reform needed for the development of Prius.|
|Dr. Takehisa Yaegashi made important contributions to the harmonious combination of the electric and internal combustion engines, which made substantial emission reductions possible.|
|Dr. Yuichi Fujii was responsible for the electric drive system and the development of a battery that fulfils the specific requirements of a hybrid car.|