Hybrid Minivan: Toyota Estima Takes Pole Position
The Toyota family of hybrid vehicles comes in all shapes and sizes, the same way as families do. Toyota's line of hybrid minivans comes with the pedigree of a previous hybrid concept that led to the development of later sister minivan models.
At the 1999 Tokyo Auto Show, Toyota introduced a 6-seater hybrid-electric minivan, a concept car, the Toyota HVM4. A four-wheel drive, it combines Toyota's hybrid-electric drive with a CVT transmission and the engine. Two electric motors provide separate drives to the front and rear wheels. This hybrid concept relies more on the electric drive rather than the main engine that, for starters, is already smaller than the ordinary. The electric drive utilizes the power to support the engine, and harnesses the energy derived during braking (regenerative), accelerating and reducing, even in cruise mode, to charge the battery.
For a 6-seater minivan, all that power translates to a lot of fossil fuel being saved, as a family driver will more often than not opt for easy cruise-mode rather than racing. And at cruise-mode or easy coasting, the electric motors take care of the ride. Fuel-saving and zero emissions and all, that's easier on the family budget. Only when you need to go uphill or when the kids carry extra heavy luggage does the main engine kick in for traction and power.
The Estima Hybrid Minivan
In the early 1990s, Toyota Motors of Japan brought to America's shores its line of mini-, multi-purpose vans that became instant hits. The Toyota Estima, sometimes dubbed as the descendant of the Previa and sister-in-the-line of Sienna, is one such MPV. The Estima line started with the smaller Lucida and Emina which were shorter and narrower than standard. The Estima is the third generation of the Previa line, which came in 2006 packed with the Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive power-train drive.
The Estima Hybrid started off with a sole electric motor hooked to a CVT mechanical transmission. It later evolved into a hybrid that uses an additional 2 more electric motors. These 3 combine, with 2 for front-wheel drive, and one for the rear, for performance power and pull.