2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid: 95 MPGe. 2012 Chevy Volt: 94 MPGe. Game On?

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2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid

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Japanese automaker Toyota has fired a warning shot across General Motors’ bow today with a revised set of gas mileage figures for the soon-to-be-launched 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid. 

Announced by Toyota Division Group Vice President and General Manager Bob Carter, official economy figures in electric-only mode have been improved from 87 miles-per-gallon equivalent (MPGe) to 95 MPGe.

On paper, that makes the 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid get better economy in electric-only mode than the extended-range Chevrolet Volt, which has an official electric-only rating of 94 MPGe. 

In hybrid mode, Bob Carter said the 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid would be rated at 50 mpg combined, up from Toyota’s previous 49 mpg estimate and a full 13 mpg better than the more expensive Volt. 

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid

Although we believe the figures have yet to be officially approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Toyota now appears firmly in the plug-in vehicle market. 

Sadly though, real-world comparisons aren’t as simple as comparing two different figures. In this case particularly, it’s much harder.

For a start, there’s cost. Starting at $32,760, Toyota’s five-seat Prius Plug-in Hybrid is much cheaper to buy than the $39995 four-seat, base-level Chevrolet Volt.  

But while the Chevrolet Volt is eligible for the full $7,500 federal tax credit towards its purchase, the 2012 Toyota Prius is only eligible for a $2,500 federal tax credit. 

Then there’s range. While the 2012 Chevrolet Volt will travel an EPA-approved 35 miles per charge at highway speeds, the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid will only travel 15 miles per charge. 

On top of that, electric-only operation in the Prius is limited to 62 mph or less. 

Which car is really the more efficient? That’s tougher to say. 

Toyota Prius Plug-In

Toyota Prius Plug-In

Enlarge Photo

As we’ve proven before, the 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid is more efficient than the 2012 Chevrolet Volt on trips longer than 70 miles, but if the majority of your daily driving is over 15 miles and under 35 miles in length, the Volt is a better choice. 

Ultimately, real-world mileage for both vehicles will depend on how much you plug in versus how much you use the gasoline engine -- not to mention your individual driving style and the roads you drive on.

Don’t think the MPG war is over yet either. 

With Ford promising its 2013 Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid will get over 100 MPGe and Chevrolet bound to respond with improved economy figures for the 2013 Volt, the battle for plug-in hybrid supremacy has only just started.

It’s time to sit back and enjoy the show. 


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Comments (37)
  1. I'm surprised the plug-in Prius isn't much better than the Volt. Isn't the Plug-in Prius almost a 1000 pounds lighter?

  2. I think the difference in weight is somewhere around 700lbs, so yea, in theory the Prius should be noticeably more efficient. Maybe the electric motor or battery type is somehow less efficient? That said, even if the EPA rates the PIP higher, I would like to see real world numbers. I think the EPA rating system for MPGe is far off the mark. Under normal driving conditions with the Volt (no hypermiling) I am regularly getting 130 MPGe in electric mode (about 40 miles/10.4 kWh). Driving more conservatively I can get between 145-160 MPGe (last weekend it was 165 MPGe).

  3. FYI, the MPG you see on Volt screen is not MPGe. How did you get those numbers?

  4. I understand that the OnStar numbers are not accurate and my 2011 Volt does not have MPGe numbers on the dashboard. I am using miles driven on a charge and the 10.4 kWh that the Vot uses in a single charge.

  5. MPGe uses kWh from the plug and EPA said Volt requires 12.9 kWh per charge. A gallon equivalent is 33.7 kWh.

    If you get 35 miles per charge, the formula is:

    35 miles x 33.7 kWh / 12.9 kWh = 91.4 MPGe

    To get 160 MPGe, you need to get 61.5 EV miles per charge.

  6. Prius Plug-in (midsize) weights 3,150 lbs.
    Volt (compact) weights 3,781 lbs.

    The difference is 631 lbs. It is not a typo, midsize is lighter than compact.

    One thing Nikki did not mention is the charge time. It is 2.5 to 3 hours for Prius Plug-in and 10 hours for the Volt.

  7. ...unless you have the 240v charger, then it's only 4 hours for the Volt. Though I've found that I don't really need the L2 charger. I'm happy with my 10k+ miles over the last year on 23 gallons of gas.

  8. Volt comes with the standard 10 hours charger. 240v charger costs $1,000 extra after installation.

    Prius Plugin does a full charge from a regular plug in 2.5 to 3 hours.

  9. Dennis, Thanks for the numbers. In any case the Prius is substantially lighter and yet only achieved the same MPGe performance as the Volt. That is disappointing.

  10. @John et al: I'm a bit puzzled by this discussion. The Prius Plug-In has a 5.2-kWh battery pack, of which it likely uses up to 4 kWh, and the Volt has a 16-kWh pack of which it uses 10.4 kWh. So the Volt should have roughly 2.5x the electric range of the Prius, and indeed it does.

    That ALONE skews the figures to make the Volt more efficient. Now, it appears that advantage is offset just about exactly by its vastly greater weight.

    We will have many different mixes of engine and battery usage in the broad category of plug-in hybrids & range-extended electric cars. How they play out, what the public wants in e-range, and other questions of usage are (to me) the crucial Qs in years ahead.

  11. Voelcker,
    Now I am confused. I assumed the 95 MPGe PiP and 94 MPGe Volt numbers are ONLY ELECTRIC. Do you know otherwise? Do those numbers include some driving on gasoline?

    The Volt windows sticker shows "First 35 miles 93 MPG equivalent", implying only electricity is used in the calculation. Do you know something different?

  12. @John Briggs: Bigger battery will be more efficient because it will have less current going out. However, Volt additional weight (mostly the battery) offsets it and MPGe end up being lower. A compact car should be more efficient however it is untrue in this case.

    @John Voelcker: 5.2 kWh is for the prototype. The production version has 4.4 kWh.

  13. Since these figures are almost equal, the better choice would be the cheapest car without the gov incentives.

    The millage and the price of these cars reminds me of the gas stations in the town I live; all the gas prices are exactly the same no matter where you go or what dealer you go to. Are they really that afraid of competition that they have to set their prices and MPC and MPG exactly the same?

  14. it's MPGe and MPG

  15. I think the biggest advantage of the Volt over the Prius is the greater electric only range. In my Volt I get about 40 miles of range in mixed street and freeway driving.
    So my daily commute and most weekend trips are all electric.

  16. Volt does have the advantage in EV range but the bigger battery intrude into the cabin robbing a seat and the heavy T-shape pack make it hard to perform repairs, requiring a lift. Prius PHV pack consists of 4 separate modules, each can be replaced easily accessed from the trunk, if needed.

    As for the miles driven in a single day (multiple trips), there are only 27% of the population that drives between 15 miles and 35 miles range daily. Therefore, 73% are better off with Prius Plugin in the US.

  17. I don't think it's a clear case of people being "better off" with the PIP. Different cars work better for different people. Also, your gas consumption will almost certainly be higher with the PIP over the Volt, with short commutes. It's apparently rather difficult to prevent the ICE from coming on during normal driving (according to the reviews I've read, such as the CNET review below). It would be difficult to prevent the engine coming on with the freeways and aggressive driving here in SoCal. Plus, if you get the "advanced" PIP package, it's actually more expensive than the Volt after rebates.

  18. The gas engine is designed to work together with the battery. It is not needed to prevent it from being useful. The end result is still 95 MPGe.

    Regular gas engine exercise keeps it fresh and does not require premium gas and engine+fuel maintenance mode like the Volt.

  19. As a Prius owner, I am disappointed with the 15 mile range. I drive 20 miles round trip to work all at less than 30 miles per hours. I would be very disappointed not to be able to do that in all electric mode. Maybe the LEAF is better for me.

  20. I own a Prius (157k miles) too with the original hybrid battery and brake pads. The highest maintenance item is the set of tires. The second is probably struts/shocks. Third is the rest -- oil changes and filters.

    If you want to do all electric, LEAF is a better choice. If you can recharge at work, Prius PHV should do all electric for your 20 miles round trip.

    However, if you want to divide your 20 miles into sections where it is best to use battery (city) or gasoline (highway) and optimize both fuel, Prius PHV will provide you that gaming opportunity with the EV/HV button.

    The ability select and control what you want to use add to the fun factor. You are probably doing it with your Prius. You'll have a lot more electricity to play with

  21. Dennis, thanks for your thoughtful input.

  22. APPROVED! ^^

  23. For those who commute less than 20 miles per day or can plug in at work and commute less than 40 miles per day, or who, like me, find that 98% of my daily round trips are less than 15 miles per day, then the Prius would be the hands down choice, even if making the shaky assumption that the Volt can match the Prius' reliability and disregarding the superior road performance of the Prius or its greater interior space. And in the years ahead, the Volt will lose much more of its driving range, making the differences between the two car's shrink even more. Now let's look at some carefully avoided issues: Selling a used Volt that needs a new $12,000 battery pack? Good luck. On a long trip the Prius is miles ahead in every conceivable way.

  24. yeah, go ahead. I'm sticking with the Volt because the PiP, even with the 95 mpge, is always a big time loser.

  25. @"a used Volt that needs a new $12,000 battery pack"
    Battery MSRP is $3000 currently, where is the number $12000 coming from?

  26. @Quartzav: Can you point us to a source for the $3,000 list price for a replacement Volt battery pack? That's about the cost for a Prius replacement nickel-metal-hydride battery pack, which is roughly 10% of the energy capacity, so it would be surprising if the 16-kWh Volt pack cost no more than the 1.4-kWh Prius pack. Sources, please?

  27. http://www.gmpartsdepartment.com/parts/2012/CHEVROLET/VOLT/?siteid=214533&vehicleid=1501836§ion=HYBRID%20COMPONENTS
    I am just speculating, for one they are selling it at a loss. Since every one they sell will have probably have a core charge for exchange-in the old ones and all Volts are under warranty currently. Plus they assemble their battery in-house. This is a really funny situation here, when GM selling Volt at $41000 MSRP people crucified them for robbing tax payers’ money by saying their goal is an accessible semi-EV yet still price it out of reach for mainstream buyers. When they sell battery at or below cost then they are accused of using $7500 to subsidies it? This is mess-up logic…

  28. In other words, they maybe betting by 2020 (the time first Volt maybe out of their battery warranty period.)GM's cost of battery pack will be below $2995?

  29. I couldn't get the link to work :(

  30. http://www.gmpartsdepartment.com/parts/?action=&siteid=214533&make=&mode
    Try this and select the model manually

  31. There are more comments in this thread
  32. If Volt's 16kWh battery MSRP is $3k, someone need to investigate if it is subsidized with $7,500 again at the expense of US tax dollar.

  33. If I understand correctly, there are a few things that can make the Prius burn gas before it uses its plug-in electric supply: speed, demand of power, and use of climate control. My understanding is that none of those things cause the Volt to use gas. The speed threshold for the Prius to make the engine start is 60 some MPH, and then once it has started the threshold becomes 50 something. The power demand threshold likely has to do with how fast the battery is rated to give up the power. Since the battery is a bit bigger in the Volt, it can stay electric under any driving demand; but the Prius will need power from the engine. Also, the Volt has an electric heater to provide heat whereas the Prius will need to burn gas to give you heat.

  34. As for the $3000 Volt battery. Chelsea Sexton contacted GM and they said this was some sort of warranty only price for the dealer and not available to the general public.

    So we are still left to guess the price of the Volt battery.

  35. What does it actually mean? Is it the cost to replace a few cells? Or to replace the entire pack with a brand new one under warranty?

  36. Honestly, I don't know.

    Note that the battery has an 8 year warranty so any battery replacement is almost certainly going to be done under warranty.

    Here is my guess. The factory sends out a battery pack to the dealership and charges them $2400 for the new battery as a sort of security deposit. When the old battery pack is returned to the factory, the dealership gets the $2400. But this is pure speculation on my part.

  37. this mpge rating that is being used is absolutely stupid. there is no such thing as a gallon of electricity. in trying to make something familiar, they've made something dumb.

    they should just show the range of travel possible on electricity, and then show a cost per year scale similar to those used on consumer electronics like refrigerators and washing machines.

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