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Your Toyota Prius Has Serious Boost

If you were to ask most people what the first word they think of is when they hear Toyota Prius, it would probably be slow. What most people do not know is that your Prius was engineered to have boost, in order to make it faster, but maybe not in the way you think.


The Toyota Prius has a stigma, and one that has really deceived people more than anything. When Prius Generation 1 rolled off the boat into the U.S. It was a slow yet fuel efficient car that did not really turn many heads. Most writers that went and drove it, gave Prius some serious hate initially claiming it to be slow and very lackluster.

They were right. Gen 1 Toyota Prius Prius was seriously anything but exciting, and because of this it earned a stigma pretty quick that all subsequent models were just as awful as the first. The thing is, Toyota had already been gathering data to make Prius better, most people just did not know it.

One of those really neat tech upgrades second generation received was boost. Just not in the way you think, but a better way. First you have to know why first gen Prius earned the badge of slow, then this will all begin to make sense.

Eat My Voltage, Maybe

First Generation Toyota Prius, the "before" Prius that changed our lives did this in many ways. Prius massively cleaned up tail pipe emissions and reduced fuel consumption in a way no one had ever seen before. It was the ultimate "eco" car and people quickly caught on to them, and how slow they were.

Prius in that time had a high voltage battery that touted a little over 300 volts of electric motor pounding fury. It was really peppy and great, until the power ran out like when going up a hill. Prius only had about 58 horsepower with out the aid of the hybrid battery and if you were out cruising around the mountains with your friends, you may encounter the dreaded turtle mode.

This mode meant that you only could use the gas motor because you had exhausted all the useable energy in the high voltage battery. Journalists quickly deemed Prius slow and this was due to the fact that we only had 300 volts of power to work with, so if it was gone the little engine that could, barely could, and that was bad. Even though they were super futuristic, this was just a limitation they had.

Prius just could not make up for its lack of power in the first years due to it not being able to have the boost it needed to have. Until today.

I Will Take Boost With A Side Of Boost Please.

What we are not told as consumers really what makes the differences in our vehicles. All we know is it either works or it does not. Toyota, however, I believe had the foresight to be able to see that gen 1 Prius was not going to be the end all of hybrids. They used gen 1 to gather data to then make a far superior car we all know and love today, Generation 2.

What really makes gen 2 so good though? Why did it build a cult following of Prius owners? It was because even though Toyota utilized some of the same powertrain components from the previous generation, they improved on them. They improved the horsepower output of both the gasoline engine, and the motor generators. Torque was also improved as well. but what really made the difference is the performance aspect. Gen 2 dominated gen 1, and there was no longer a turtle to slow you down.

Watch how Toyota is using a new SIC technology to improve Prius mileage and click to subscribe to Torque News Youtube channel for daily Toyota and Automotive news analysis.

What Toyota had done to Prius to make this generation better, was to think about what the car actually needed to compete with a regular gasoline counterpart. The answer? A boost converter. This is why the Toyota Prius you are driving actually gets up and boogies down the road. Instead of having only 300 volts on tap in a large heavy hybrid battery, Toyota actually made a smaller and lighter battery with the a neat feature called a boost converter. It literally is almost like having a turbo on your vehicle that spools up instantly and gives you more power on demand. So now your Prius can get 650V instead increasing performance and saving the battery.

Toyota was not only able to reduce the overall battery size and voltage, but they were also able to utilize that power better, giving Prius better MPG, lower tail pipe emissions, and something that it really needed, performance. Boost converters are found on all hybrids now because they are needed to make them more efficient.


A Toyota Prius may still have a stigma to some people, but knowing what I know now about all the cool tech that has made up this little car, I am forever a Prius owner. Plus it is cool to think that I get instant boost on my car where others still are waiting for spool.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading about new Prius Technology. Check out my other story 3 Top Tire Brands You Should Consider For Your Toyota Prius to find even more ways to make that fuel sipper go the extra mile.

Also Watch New tech means more MPG from your Toyota Prius and Click to Subscribe to Torque News Youtube Channel for Daily Toyota Prius and Automotive News.

Peter Neilson is an automotive consultant specializing in electric cars and hybrid battery technologies. He is an automotive technology instructor at Columbia Basin College. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Automotive Service Technology from Weber State University. Peter can be reached on Linkedin and at Certified Consulting


Real Engineer (not verified)    July 22, 2019 - 9:51PM

As an electrical engineer, I can attest that this article is completely incorrect.

The author confuses very basic concepts such as battery voltage and battery power. The battery voltage has nothing to do with battery power.
Power is not measured in Volts. It is measured in Watts or Kilowatts.

Boosting battery voltage to 650 volts doesn't increase battery power. And I'm sorry but the boost converter does not (quoting the author here) "instantly gives you more power on demand".

Using authors incorrect logic we can replace Prius battery with a flashlight AA battery. Just add a boost converter that will increase battery voltage to 1000V and Voila! We get a formula one Prius! After all, per the author's logic, higher voltage means more power.

When someone gets zapped by static electricity the voltage gets up to 20,000 volts. Following the author's train of thought, it means even more power, and the next generation of hybrids can be powered by static electricity. Just rub a plastic ball with a wool sock and get an instant power boost of 20,000 volts before climbing this hill!

The author claims that he is an automotive consultant and a technology instructor who teaches students. I feel bad for the author's clients and his students.

Peter (not verified)    July 22, 2019 - 11:00PM

In reply to by Real Engineer (not verified)

Well, thanks for the input but that is what a boost converter does. It does boost the voltage up from 201.6 to 600+ depending on which Prius generation it is. While true power is measured in kilowatts or watts, as any good instructor knows the job of the boost converter is to aid in heavy acceleration while minimizing losses from the high voltage battery. Stick with electrical engineering, is mechanics fix all your mistakes anyway.

Real Engineer (not verified)    August 9, 2019 - 4:50PM

In reply to by Peter (not verified)

I'm glad we agreed that true power is not measured in volts. it also implies that only fake power is measured in volts. Or better yet, people who don't have a clue what they talking about use voltage for power measurements.

Would you please cite any reliable sources apart tribal knowledge of good instructors that a boost converter aids in heavy acceleration?

Let's start with physics.
Power is calculated by the following formula.
P is power measured in kWh
V is voltage measured in Volts
I is a current measured in Ameres

To get higher power, engineers can whether to increase a voltage or a current. Both approaches have pros and cons.

If the voltage is relatively low a huge current is required to get the needed power. That’s not great, because a high current means a large power loss in the control electronics, and it means that really fat wiring needed to carry that current around the car, which makes it heavy.

A very high voltage will require a low current to obtain the desired power. Now, it could be a relatively thin, light wires, which result in less power in the switching electronics. But now, other problems will arise. Such high voltages make insulation difficult (particularly in damp automotive environments), and they’re more of a safety risk. In addition, it’s much more difficult (=expensive) to design electronics that switch at very high voltages. The high voltages tend to break down the components.

The result is a compromise to keep the voltage up and current down (to avoid too much loss of energy in the control electronics, and to keep the wiring light and thin), without making the voltage so high that it causes insulation and safety issues, or makes the control electronics too difficult/expensive.

Real Engineer (not verified)    August 12, 2019 - 1:09PM

In reply to by Peter (not verified)

To summarize:
The voltage boost converter is not a magical power booster. It is an engineering trick that allows delivering more power from the battery to the electric motor.
The reason for using the boost converter is to making voltage switching more efficient and to minimize switching power loss in the inverter.

Dave (not verified)    December 27, 2022 - 11:19PM

In reply to by Real Engineer (not verified)

I know this has age! but with age there is matureity well we hope.. history with technological e/involvement shows Contrast (management), Light (Knowledge) lastly beneficiaries (The Suppressive) thus in truth we are stuck in a loop where all are limited to 10% of sufficiency regardless of ones trade! look at the motor industry was created where the combustion engine was given into the general public due to its chemical discharge where suitable persons of the time would emit carbon further an pay a price for contact an make on onlookers dwell in the thought of owning one thus the boom in the motor industry " lets stop there because if your educated an hold a trade " you to just got caught in the texture of trade silly educating system whom came up with that " the industrial age the carbon foot print of 10% a motor is an electrical device that rotates on an axis no more no less where a engines consumes fossil fuels that displace this into the atmosphere hence the 10% carbon foot print. now back in the D.A.Y. there where 3 people that imposed this on all 2 males an a female are noted where they made the choice to use battery operated vechile/s alike where the fuel for those composed natural resources upon anywhere of there earth to run there electric carriages an therefor was endless directly in a vastness an back in there eyes 1800's to 1900's they imposed this. but today of this age it is talked about such batteries in simple toys as new technology. I.f. Egypt plundered in such wealth to things of the (s)oil to things of the Heavens as an example ( Yes ) Egypt also produced Gold from (s)oil " and traded in this too which those (s)oil which had high chemical settlements naturally accruing in that (s)oil like the gold which has hi velocity of electrical properties ( crystalmatic charge ) induced minds that consume alcohol ( Wine " to carry of the tounge " ) 10% means of thought where if spilled turns to vinegar a means of enriched source with out thought until you spill this on the refined (s)oil you extracted gold from there they used clay pots which we use today an call ceramics only the common people where given cooper to handle as this has aging properties where gold has healing properties an lets not forget about alloy metals so heres a secret when where batteries invent ? not made known in the public sector when where light bulbs deviced an lets not forget about motors too all means of placement either been given an share in time ( capsule )... yes you think of silly things an laugh as all will, hence the (wine) but remember only electrical items have charge in this pure state hence why the healthy remain healthy an as for copper well that oxidiz/s/e's 10% a common though to all, so all what has very hi alkaline properties ??? (S)oils so name one where they had to use a none porous crystal like ceramic after all ceramic does crack but with copper thats safe to use in saying that sufficiency of 10%. now heres the equalnox's of the 2Oth century look at the word " P.O.R.O.U.S " ? whom holds a mathamatical Degree ? a Degree in Science ? Engineer in bio mechanics ? an so on or your just good with math! whom know the binary factor (code) Look at the Word P.O.R.O.U.S you will two digits of the same ( remember oxygen keep us here but also creates drag ) those Digits are 00 you cant multiply them but we can join them in pairs lets put them in mathamatical order as scientists would an engineer a word (((( P.O.O.R.U.S )))) but in saying that if you have a degree you know 0+0=1 " factor to carry " simple term 1 pair! as a means of intelligence ( i )/ ( I ) is used as 1 (one) now lets use the means of resistance/or ( Wine ) table in order so with P.R. remains an with 00(oo) removed an turned into 1/i we in binary have the word P.R.I.U.S so in full ((s)ystematically)) have the sentence ( passage or legal or law) P.O.O.R. U.S. P.R.I.U.S. 10% sufficiency carbon foot print remember the oxygen factor what is porous will slow you down as above but in truth this produces hydrogen as well so there something to think about, in earlier of 10% even today there are words used in riddles too! here are those words " A.S.H.E.S TO A.S.H.E.S, D.U.S.T TO D.U.S.T ". do you know the rest ? this talks about endless engery in every formation given to us then taking away. an they say we only can use a certain per/cent of our brain capacity the factor of 10 ( or the starting point of binary system ( A.T.I.C.)

Patrick Conway (not verified)    November 10, 2019 - 2:11PM

In reply to by Real Engineer (not verified)

I have no idea who's right or wrong but I live in Lake Arrowhead and bought a Prius that was set up by Toyota Racing development in San Bernardino with over $5,000 worth of suspension and tires and that thing had more torque in the mountains than most sports cars that I would be pressing and because of its front-wheel drive I never took my foot off and it never hesitated unlike vehicles with normal Transmissions. People could hardly believe that little red car on their ass had a Toyota badge on the front and a Prius badge on the back but trust me for $5,000. Car turns into a beast and it's all because of its instant torque. What a car begins as is not what it ends up as, ask anybody who owned a Corvette in the seventies that couldn't go over a hundred 10 miles an hour because of shaking like a leaf and now they will do over 250 :-) can't wait to see where the Prius will go as I would like to see a different body style or options for this amazing vehicle! By the way I forgot to mention that during the time I was driving the car I never drove it out of economy mode as just when I met a turbocharged Porsche I needed to power mode and all that time I was getting 41 miles a gallon in the mountains :-) IBS you not