While the Toyota Prius is the world's most popular hybrid vehicle--with well over 1.5 million sold globally since 1997--it's become almost an accepted part of the automotive landscape.
And with plug-in vehicles seen as the next big thing, will the Prius fade away? Not if Toyota has anything to say about it.
We've now driven a prototype of the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, which the company intends to offer for sale in roughly two years. You can read the full drive report over at our sister site, Green Car Reports.
The basic idea behind the Plug-In Prius is to expand the all-electric range of an otherwise (more or less) conventional Prius hybrid by enlarging the battery pack and letting owners recharge it by plugging it into the electric grid.
The 2012 Prius Plug-In prototype we drove had a battery pack roughly three times the size of the standard 2010 Prius pack, which is 1.6 kilowatt-hours. More importantly, it uses lithium-ion cells rather than the nickel-metal-hydride used in every Prius to date.
Otherwise, the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid uses the same Hybrid Synergy Drive system as a standard 2010 Toyota Prius.
And it drives just like the standard 2010 Prius as well, although it feels slightly heavier, and we thought the acceleration was somewhat less sprightly from a standing stop.
Our overall impression, in fact, was that the Prius Plug-In is most remarkable because it's almost indistinguishable from a standard 2010 Toyota Prius hybrid. Take off the labels and graphics, and only the charging port in the left front fender gives it away.
So we'd be curious to get your thoughts: Should Toyota sell the Prius Plug-In (which they haven't yet priced) as "just another Prius," or would you like it to be more distinctive?
Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.