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Toyota Estima Hybrid Minivan

The Toyota Estima Hybrid Minivan is the world's first hybrid minivan and first mass-produced hybrid 4-wheel drive vehicle.

Oh, what a feeling, Est-i-ma. The Toyota Estima Hybrid Minivan is the second hybrid vehicle that Toyota has rolled out, the first being the Prius. On July 30, 2003, Toyota began selling the Estima Hybrid Minivans in the Osaka area of Japan and may not be rolled out to the U. S. anytime soon.

The Japanese Estima Hybrid uses a 2.4 liter, four-cylinder engine couple with front and rear electric motors driving the 4WD configuration. This four-wheel drive system has been dubbed E-Four, which regulates a rear-mounted, rear-wheel propelled electric motor and coordinates electric power distribution to all four wheels.



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The Estima Hybrid is Toyota's most technologically advanced hybrid to date. According to SAE International, "The Estima's parallel-hybrid THS-C front powertrain comprises an internal combustion engine (ICE), a double-pinion, planetary-gear, power-switching device and twin clutches; and a 216-V, 13-kW motor/generator producing 110 Nom (81 lboft). Denso Corp. co-developed the "world's first" belt-driven integrated starter generator (ISG) for the Estima. The rear-wheel drivetrain has its own 216-V motor/generator rated at 18 kW and 108 Nom (80 lboft). The IC engine can assist the twin motors to drive all four wheels for short bursts of acceleration."

The Estima Hybrid Minivan contains many advanced safety features and interior amenities. Toyota says, "The Estima Hybrid now comes with a pedestrian-injury-lessening body designed to minimize pedestrian head and leg injury in the event of a collision. It also incorporates a dedicated ISO-FIX compliant anchor point that can accommodate child seats equipped with a top-end tether tie-down.

"Other new features include a Wide Multi-AV Station with a DVD voice navigation system compatible with G-BOOK information network services and a theater system engineered just for the Estima Hybrid that includes a DVD player, nine speakers and a nine-inch rear seat LCD monitor. The improved Estima Hybrid also boasts a range of advanced features, including a blind-corner monitor that displays views to the front left and right of the vehicle as well as of the ground immediately in front of the vehicle."

Like the recent lines of Dodge and GM hybrid trucks, the Estima's hybrid power-plant can generate up to 1,500 watts of auxiliary 100-volt AC, making it ideal for emergency vehicle or mobile office applications. The Estima Hybrid runs with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), regenerative braking to recharge the battery pack and improves fuel efficiency by 15 to 20 percent over other comparable non-hybrid minivans.

Although Toyota's Estima Hybrid Minivan may never hit American shores and streets, it now appears as if its big brother, the Sienna Hybrid will be hitting the U. S. marketplace in 2007. This will make the Sienna Hybrid, the first hybrid-power minivan in the U. S. showrooms, another of a long list of firsts for Toyota. The Estima in our estimation is worth checking out for those traveling in Japan.