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Cheapest Electric Car In The U.S.? It Depends How You Ask

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2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid

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So what's the least expensive plug-in car in the U.S.?

That ought to be pretty simple to figure out, right? Just compare the base price for every electric car, add in mandatory delivery fees, and see which comes in lowest.

Which is why we got confused this morning when we read Toyota's Bob Carter saying in the Detroit News that the company's 2012 Prius Plug-In Hybrid model would be "the lowest-priced plug-in hybrid or pure electric vehicle on the market."

The base price of the plug-in Prius is $32,760 (including delivery), and it's expected to qualify for a Federal electric-vehicle tax credit. Based on its 4.4-kilowatt-hour battery pack, that credit is just $2,500.

We were puzzled by Carter's claim because the 2012 Mitsubishi 'i' battery electric car has a base price of $29,125 (again including delivery), and it qualifies for the full $7,500 tax credit, since its battery pack is larger than the 16-kWh size required for the maximum amount.

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, production model

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, production model

Enlarge Photo

Either way, the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid costs more than the 2012 Mitsubishi 'i'. Comparing sticker prices, the base model plug-in Prius is more than $3,500 pricier, and after incentives, the difference rises to almost $8,000.

Sure, the Prius is a larger and more capable car with a far longer range--but they're both undeniably plug-ins. And the plug-in Prius won't be delivered until next March or later, by which time the Mitsubishi 'i' will be on sale in California.

So what's Carter talking about?

The explanation, we think, is in five key words in Carter's statement. The new Prius model will be the lowest-priced plug-in, he said, "when it goes on sale."

And Toyota is going to start taking orders very soon, meaning the car is technically on sale even though deliveries won't start until sometime next March or thereafter.

So there will be a short window of time this autumn when the plug-in Prius will be "on sale" but the Mitsubishi 'i' won't. That's the time when it'll be the cheapest plug-in. As soon as the 'i' hits dealers, the Prius Plug-In loses its title.

In other words, watch out for waffle wording.

[Detroit News]

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Comments (8)
  1. Hold their feet to the fire John. Make them tell the truth.

    Speaking of wording. What are we going to call this thing "plug-in Prius" or "Prius plug-in" or are we just not going to be into labels and call it simply the savior of USA motoring.
     
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    Bad stuff?

  2. So it is the cheapest plugin, AND the shortest EV range by a long shot.
     
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  3. Wake me up when you've finished. Yawn...
     
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  4. Great info. It's articles like these that I appreciate reading on this site.
     
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  5. For months now Toyota has shown the Plug-in Prius with the charge port on the driver's side front fender (same as the Volt). Now, pictures of the PIP on the Toyota web-site and the above pictures show it on the right rear panel across from the gasoline port. To me this is a bad place. I liked it better on the driver's side or on the front like the Leaf. It makes it harder on the driver to go around (possibly in tight places) to plug-in and may make the driver not notice it when they get in the car to drive away. I am sure the car will not move while plugged-in (or I assume so), but it is an inconvenient place for the charge port. IMO..
     
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  6. all this short range e/v is to stop people from haveing free engery machines. hers the real question. a tesla has 300hp will run for 240 miles if u made it genrate power for that time u could make over 100kv.
     
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  7. Oh boy, we have one of those "free energy" people on board.
     
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  8. It makes me wonder if you just bought a Prius (trim 2) and added an after market plug-in upgrade, perhaps it would be cheaper. Perhaps not.
     
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