• Jun 1st 2006 at 3:33PM
  • 31

Ever stare at that spot on your dash that has a piece of plastic where a button should be? Ever wonder what that button would do if it were installed? More and more Prius owners are finding out that that empty spot on their dashes is occupied on Euro-spec Prius models by a button that switches the hybrid into electric-only mode while driving locally at low speeds.

While North America Prius cars can be powered solely by their electric motors at low speeds, anyone who has driven the king of hybrids in the States knows that operating in EV mode for extended periods is nearly impossible. Any adjustment of the throttle is immediately interpreted by the onboard computer as acceleration, which instantly calls upon the gas engine for assistance.

Toyota claims that this feature was disabled for the North American market because U.S. law mandates a minimum 8-year warranty on the hybrid drivetrain, which includes the battery pack. By disabling the option of operating solely on battery power for extended periods the company can better assure a longer life for the car's battery pack, despite the fact that much better fuel mileage is being sacrificed.

Fear not, though. The Prius has already proved to be immensely hackable and computer geeks have already discovered how to enable that missing button's function in North American models. This article from CNET also shows how far Prius hacking can go, including one that allows the nav system to be operated at speed as well as while the vehicle's in Park.

BTW - We're not entirely certain that button we circled above is the missing one in question. Any enlightenment our Euro readers could shed on the button and its exact whereabouts on the dash would be greatly appreciated.

[Source: CNET and Foursprung]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 9 Years Ago
      Who cares?
      • 9 Years Ago
      SigmaAuto.com sells the original JDM EV Button Kit for all '04-06 Prius. This button kit awakes the embedded EV mode in the US Prius. Very cool indeed.
      • 9 Years Ago
      Duh, a toyota.... The button that is circled is for dimming the interior and in-dash lighting as on every other late-model toyota.....
      • 9 Years Ago
      That is the Windows XP CTRL+ALT+DEL "three finger salute" button.


      • 9 Years Ago
      As Johnathan and MooseBlaster pointed out, that is a headlight adjustment dial. For those of you in the US that have never seen one, it has usually 4-5 different height settings that adjust your headlights up and down by a couple degrees. I'm asssuming it's manditory, because I haven't seen a new-ish car over here without one. I think the point is to be able to lower your beam in city driving, so as not to blind other people as much, but have a great feild of view out in the country bu turning it up, without your high beams on. This is in addition to the high/low beams switch.
      As for the buttons to the right of the dial...no clue, never droven a Prius.
      • 9 Years Ago
      On my UK spec Prius, the EV button is indeed in the exact spot indicated by the wobbly red circle. The headlight adjustment is to the right of the steering column.

      The dashboard layout of the Prius is surprisingly different in different countries. In Japan the button is up on the dash itself.
      • 9 Years Ago
      If I remember correctly, it was this EV-mode hack that allowed CalCars to make their plugin Prius.
      • 9 Years Ago
      The missing button is indeed a vertical headlight adjuster. A nice feature to have for all vehicles that don't have any automated form of self-leveling.

      I think the 8-year battery warranty theory is incorrect. However, I do think that the myriad of US laws and other forms of Federally regulated spaghetti are to blame for many examples of technically inferior models made available in the States over the years.

      It started in the 70s, with Federalized mandatory 5-mph bumpers which ruined the carefully balanced designs of every decent looking sports car. Then we got mirrors with packing-crate stenciled commentary about objects being closer than most idiots were able to mentally process. 85mph speedos were introduced to fool the dumbest group of US motorists - and to thoroughly annoy the rest of us. The BMW M3 lost over 46bhp in the translation from its European version as recently as 1999. The Porsche 959, introduced in 1988, was a decade or two ahead of its time in every technical and safety aspect, but was not "approved" for use on US roads.

      I could go on, but regulatory BS has long been a source of annoyance to us and a frustration to the manufacturers, whose safety and technical standards far surpass the idiot-level specs issued by the competing empires (or circuses) of the DOT and NHTSA. They assume that we're all morons and it is their solemn duty to protect us from our own incompetence. Sadly, "Drivers" who cannot bring an SUV to a stop in a straight line when they get a flat rear tire seem to support this thesis.

      Then the manufacturers have to worry about the rash of personal injury and civil-suit lawyers who are always looking for a excuse to file a class-action lawsuit - supposedly to compensate the victims but in reality to justify hugely inflated hourly rates and other bloated costs with the purpose of retaining the majority of any monetary awards. I can already imagine the argument relating to the possible misuse of a headlight adjuster resulting in oncoming traffic being blinded, hence...

      To those who love sausages or the law.... my advice is this : never watch either one being made.
      • 9 Years Ago
      Maybe the button triggers the ejection seat for when the steering fails.
      • 9 Years Ago
      I think what you circled might be a dial to adjust headlight angle.
      • 9 Years Ago
      I've wanted a Prius since they were advertised, but now my faith in Toyota has waned, since the "SUV" was made "green". What a joke Toyota. Its just a ploy to sell more SUV's to the American's who don't really care about the earth. I'm still waiting for an all electric with motor boost for more miles per gallon in the long run. Its possible, just not being sold here in the U. S.
      • 9 Years Ago
      What about automatic headlight leveling?
      The US prius has H4 as the base headlights, and optional single beam D4R reflectors (NO high beams, other than raising the aim)
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