2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid: 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show Preview

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prototype 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, April 2010

prototype 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, April 2010

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You might have just one week left  to register your interest in buying a 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, but we still haven't yet seen a production version of Toyota's first plug-in hybrid yet.

That will all change in Frankfurt in just under a month, when Toyota will unveil the official  production version of its 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid at the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show.  

Based on the 2012 Toyota Prius, the Prius Plug-in Hybrid will feature the same 1.8 liter engine and 60 kilowatt electric motor found in the standard Prius.

Unlike its sibling,  the Prius Plug-in Hybrid comes with an extended 5.2 kilowatt-hour battery pack, on-board charger and revised software enabling it to travel at up to 60 mph on electric power alone. 

While we’ve clocked several thousand miles behind the wheel of the 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid prototype, we’re expecting the production version debuting in  Frankfurt to differ in several key areas.

Firstly, we’re expecting the battery pack - an improved 5.2 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion pack - to be slightly smaller in physical size than the battery pack found in the prototypes, increasing the load-bay area a little from the slightly smaller load-bay we griped about in the prototype

Toyota Prius Plug-In

Toyota Prius Plug-In

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Secondly, we’re expecting Toyota to increase the range of the Plug-in Prius slightly, improving on the disappointing 13 mile all-electric range of the prototype in order to make it more appealing to first-time plug-in buyers.  We’ve heard nothing to confirm this, but several sources close to Toyota have hinted the range will increase. 

Thirdly, as we’ve said before, the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid needs a range sustaining and a pure electric mode.  The prototypes we’ve driven haven't allowed us to chose when the car will enter all-electric mode, meaning that it is always the first 13 or so miles which are driven in electric mode. 

Enabling a charge sustaining mode (to prevent the plug-in battery pack from depleting until  it is needed) could help improve the overall fuel economy of the Prius Plug-in Hybrid. 

Finally, we’d expect the Prius Plug-in Hybrid to include some form of telematics to enable drivers to time charging and pre-heating of the cabin. These features were absent on the prototypes we drove  - and are a must in order to offer the same level of functionality found on the Prius Plug-in Hybrid’s direct competitors. 

Of course, our predictions are pure speculation and we’ll have to wait another month to find out for sure what tweaks Toyota has made to its first Plug-in Hybrid. 

We'll bring you complete coverage of the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show, here, once it starts on September 13.



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