Well, it took a while, but we now have a winner in our quiz about industry firsts in the 2010 Toyota Prius.
The winner is our reader Trace R. Thanks to everyone who submitted answers. According to Toyota, the correct answers were:
(1) Lowest Coefficient of Drag. The 2010 Prius has a Cd of 0.25, which is the lowest ever seen in a volume production car. It's a slight improvement over the 2004-2009 model, which had a Cd of 0.26.
In this case, Toyota might qualify it to read "high-volume production four-door, four-seat car." The 2010 Prius figure just equals that of the 1999-2005 Honda Insight, which also had a Cd of 0.25. But only 14,000 of the tiny 70-mpg two-seat Insights were made over its life. Another two-seater, the fabled GM EV1 electric car, had a far better Cd: 0.195, the lowest thus far for a roadgoing vehicle. But that wasn't a "production car," strictly speaking.
The designers of the upcoming 2011 Chevrolet Volt have promised it will have a Cd "among the best" in its class. And the makers of the ultra-aerodynamic Aptera 2e quote a Cd of 0.15, which is easier to do if you only have two gull-wing doors, two seats...and just three wheels.
(2) Touch Tracer. This allows input from steering wheel controls to read out on the instrument panel of the 2010 Toyota Prius. The goal here is to let the driver operate controls without having to move his or her eyes from the road ahead to the centrally mounted video display. The time for a driver to refocus from 100 feet ahead to 24 inches away, select a control, and then return focus to traffic is one of the greatest dangers in modern control systems. So, as Toyota says,
Touch sensors on the steering wheel switches are designed to reduce driver eye movement for better concentration on the road. When the driver touches the audio or info switch located on the steering wheel, a duplicate image is displayed on the instrument panel, directly in front of the driver. Touch Tracer...is the first system in the world to allow steering wheel controls to read out on the instrument panel.
(3) Remote Air Conditioning. Perhaps the least whizzy feature, this option is simply a convenience for drivers in hot climates. The key fob contains a button that switches on the electric air-conditioning and lets the user specify a temperature, cooling the car considerably before the driver gets in. This reduces the load on the engine once the driver pulls away.
This feature can work in conjunction with the solar electric moonroof, which uses photovoltaic cells to power a small fan that sucks hot air out of the interior while the car is parked. Removing the hot air further reduces A/C use, again saving fuel--and in this case, the solar power to run that exhaust fan is "free". Except for the cost of the moonroof--ahem--though Toyota hasn't released pricing for the new Prius yet.