2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In: Driven

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When the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid goes on sale about this time next year, it will be the first mass-production vehicle from Toyota that plugs in. Yet, despite that, the Plug-In feels more like a value-added version of the Prius than a model that will be itself iconic or radically new.

It's value-added, because owners will have some of the benefits of an electric vehicle, without the worry that they won't make it back on a charge. After a relatively short three-hour charge on standard 110V household power, you can drive approximately 12 to 15 miles without the gasoline engine contributing to propulsion. After that, it's just a standard Prius and gets about the same mileage as the standard-issue model (which has an EPA-rated 51 mpg city, 48 highway).

A Prius...just one with an added charge

And it looks virtually identical to a standard Prius. The little charging door just ahead of the driver's door is about the only difference you'll see from the outside compared to a normal 2011 Prius.

To simplify a bit, the Plug-In drives much like a regular Prius—just one that's a bit heavier.

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Comments (20)
  1. Q: how large is the lithium pack, and is the "stock" NiMH battery still in the car? If so, can regenerative braking recharge the lithium pack?

  2. I like seeing american cars prevail over foreign ones, but if the plug-in prius can remain under $30k, there isn't any real point in buying the Volt unless chevy can cut the price down. Even then, most Americans prefer foreign cars anyway. Sigh.

  3. @Neil: The Li-ion pack is 5.2 kWh, IIRC, and the NiMH pack is completely removed. As currently designed, the Prius Plug-In Hybrid test cars CANNOT recharge the two-thirds of the pack above and beyond the portion that replicates the standard Prius's 1.4 kWh.
    We discuss that more here:

  4. This is even a worse rip-off than adding $2K to Chevy Cruze to make it "eco". I also agree that Volt is too expensive for what it offers (especially with the usual price gouging...) I wish everyone lots of luck (especially GM) but the only reasonable option for me is still the 5-seat LEAF... if it ever gets built at Oppama.

  5. Uh... Pass. I will keep my Leaf and 04 Prius and wait for a more compelling EREV when the Prius finally dies after 250k+ miles, which at the rate I now drive it will be 10 or more years. Leaf is easily covering 95%+ of my needs.

  6. At one of Toyota's Plug-In Prius media events, they said that they were trying to restore the spare tire well for the production version.
    They also told us the total pack size is 5.2kWh, but only 3.8 are used for electric-mode propulsion. NiMh is out.
    I don't see any way that a smaller pack can produce more consistent range. I think the issue is that if you drive quick or fast, the gas engine will come on. Electricity only pushes the Prius when you are driving sedately, so that's why its range is more consistent.
    I don't see why it weighs so much (they told us it's 400 pounds extra). I added a 4.9kWh hour lithium pack, including charger, to my Prius in 2008. I kept the NiMh, so it's all additional weight. But my car only gained 180lbs.

  7. #4 JKD - I bought my volt for MSRP. I really don't think that there is that much "gouging" going on. My dealer said that GM made it very clear that they took an extremely dim view of "gouging", and that there were sure to be repercussions down the road when it is detected.
    The plug in Prius is not going to make me give up my Volt, LOL. Made in USA, thank you very much.

  8. @Noel - You were able to score the Volt and it meets your needs - Good for you! That's why we have choices - the lack of the fifth seat would have been a deal breaker for me. No one asks you to give anything up - just keep driving in the EV mode as much as you can and you're golden.

  9. #8 JKD - Thanks. 330 miles back and forth to work this week and NO GAS. Works for me!

  10. Wow, that pack set up is bizaaah!
    Too bad.

  11. "but if the plug-in prius can remain under $30k, there isn't any real point in buying the Volt unless chevy can cut the price down"
    Very true, if I was only driving 60 miles per week.

  12. The fact remains that a plug-in Prius is simply a regular Prius with a bigger, updated battery. The Prius cannot run without its ICE. As mentioned in the article, it takes a VERY light foot to keep the engine from starting, and even then it sometimes starts. The Volt can go months without its ICE generator starting. There is absolutely no comparison between the Prius and the Volt. One is an electric car with a generator. The other is simply a hybrid that plugs in.

  13. Doug...i know a year ago is when u wrote about the PHEV....YES u r correct that the Prius Plug in is just that a Hybrid but with extended EV RANGE....but to make this VERY CLEAR...the PHEV can drive days/weeks/months...I DRIVE A @)2012 PHEV Prius Plug In Hybrid....its capabilities are endless as to set the facts in place..I purchased the PHEV since I traded my Prius Liftback 2010 for its purchase..the regular Prius 5 was getting 56 mpg...the PHEV is and has consistently achieved 178 MPGe....I have gone 1,882 miles on 10.6 gals. of gas...u do the math...yes IF u are a pedal pusher the engine kicks on BUT it is for LESS THAN 2 min. and UNDER stress it HELPS to protect the range u can go..IT IS A PLUG IN HYBRID for that reason..its that simple

  14. number two Doug...the facts are as follows....I have driven 8,000 miles since the purchase...i have gone for gas every 42 days approx..YOU MUST charge after each trip if possible to keep the intention that Toyota engineered this vehicle to achieve..here is the engine facts...if u start on a trip the PHEV picks EV as default ALWAYS...You have the EV/HV selection at any time you wish to pick either..the basics are to use the HV up slight inclines/hilly areas to conserve your 4.4 Kwh full charge...Highways KILL ALL OF THESE Plug ins so if u r cruising use EV on highways and when u incline drive switch to HV JUST UNTIL you need to ...this is how Toyota created this vehicle in mind..its how u drive the PHEV which in turn gives its high MPGe..

  15. An extra 300 lbs. means the Lithium pack weighs 378 lbs.; now if that were NiMH, you could use ALL of it; and a NiMH pack of that weight would have 10 kWh of energy. NiMH doesn't need a separate cooling system, as Lithium and the 10 kWh would take it 50 miles on All-Electric range.
    Our Toyota RAV4-EV, using a 1000 lb. battery pack, delivers up to 30 kWh of energy and lasts more than 10 years and more than 100,000 miles.

  16. How much electricity is involved in a recharge. If fully discharged how many KWH to return to full charge?

  17. @ed-- The Prius Plug-In only uses about 3.8 kWh of the battery's total capacity of about 5.2 kWh. You should also see our post on all the numbers at

  18. how far would I be able to drive on a single charge?
    I am trying to figure out if this is going to benefit me over my 07 Prius. THANKS!

  19. Ok, so no gasoline for the Volt, but how much is it costing for electric to recharge? I haven't seen anyone address this cost for running an electric car.

  20. @cindy and @carol, you'll also want to check the other post -- http://www.greencarreports.com/blog/1057287_2012-toyota-prius-plug-in-by-the-numbers-would-it-work-for-you
    And @carol, the cost of electricity varies greatly, as we've seen by comparing residential rates of our editors across the country -- you're best to check your own cost per kWh on your electric bill.
    In short a Volt will charge up for just a dollar or so in most places, but maybe $3 or more in Manhattan.

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