2011 is set to see the introduction of a plug-in capable Toyota Prius, capable of charging it’s lithium-ion cells from either a 110v or 220v household electrical outlet. Toyota currently has 500 of the plug-in hybrids on the road in Japan, Europe and the US for testing purposes, all of these test vehicles are fitted with “black box” data recorders that transmit detailed telemetry on daily activity back to Toyota in order to gauge how the vehicles will be used when they hit the market in early 2011.
The first generation plug-in hybrid will offer a somewhat limited electric only range of 13 miles, enough for a trip down to the supermarket or soccer practice perhaps but not much else. Toyota seem to be very concerned about the potential impact that these cars will have on electrical grids, if hundreds of them all plug in at around the same time everyday it’ll overload the grid and blow the local transformer. It has been noted that hybrids seem to “cluster” in certain neighbourhoods, usually wealthier suburbs which in turn tend to be older and thus reliant on older electrical infrastructure, this could tend exacerbate the grid-overload problem.
This car is a great step into the plug-in market for Toyota, at the moment there seem to be so many people ready to buy plug-in capable cars who are frustrated at the lack of models to choose from. We’d like to see an electric only range of at least 50 miles but otherwise this Prius seems like the perfect midsize family car. It’ll need to come in at under $30,000 before mass adoption can occur, current pricing estimates are $39,500 USD, but we’ll see significant price reduction as production volume increases and lithium-ion battery systems begin to come down in cost.
Maximum EV Cruising Range – Approximately 13 miles
Recharging Time – 1½ hours @ 220V or 3 hours @ 110V
Overall Length (in) 175.6
Overall Width (in) 68.7
Overall Height (in) 58.7
Official Toyota Product Information – Prius Plug-in
The Toyota Prius is the world’s best selling hybrid vehicle. A full hybrid, it offers the best environmental performance of any mass-produced vehicle technology available today, and is now in its third generation.
Built specifically to support a global demonstration program beginning in December 2009, the Prius Plug-in Hybrid (PHV) is based on the third-generation Prius. The vehicle represents a significant enhancement of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive® (HSD) system. It combines high-output lithium-ion batteries with HSD technology to offer an expanded fully electric driving mode. The Prius Plug-in Hybrid can be recharged in approximately three hours from a standard 110V electrical outlet or one and a half hours with a 220V connection.
The Prius Plug-in Hybrid’s lithium-ion battery pack ensures strong, seamless acceleration up to highway speeds of more than 60mph on electric-only power. With a fully charged battery, it can travel a maximum of approximately 13 miles in EV mode. Once the EV-mode charge is depleted, the vehicle defaults to normal, full-hybrid mode and operates like a regular Prius.
In the past, issues such as weight, size and cost of the large capacity batteries required to offer satisfactory EV range, and the lack of adequate public recharging infrastructure have been barriers to mass-market electric vehicle acceptance. In designing the Prius Plug-in Hybrid, Toyota is addressing these issues. Given current battery development progress and costs, Toyota sees plug-in hybrid vehicles as the most realistic way to use grid electrical power for vehicle propulsion.