2012 Toyota Prius Photo

2012 Toyota Prius - Review


Well, now we've driven a prototype of the 2012 Prius Plug-In Hybrid that Toyota will sell in the U.S.

What's it like? It's just like driving a standard Toyota Prius hybrid. Only more so.

The 2012 Plug-In will be the first Toyota that can be plugged into the electric grid to recharge its battery pack since it sold several hundred RAV4e electric vehicles a decade ago.

But unlike the RAV4e, the Prius Plug-In Hybrid carries the entire Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain of a conventional Prius.

Its battery pack is larger, and it uses lithium-ion cells rather than the older nickel-metal-hydride chemistry of its conventional brethren. (Toyota has decided that particular lithium blend, however, is a dead end; production 2012 Plug-Ins might use a different variety.)

The Prius Plug-In runs in electric mode for longer, and at higher speeds, than a standard 2010 Prius hybrid. But like the stock vehicle, it recharges its battery using spare power from its engine and through regenerative braking.

The Prius Plug-In Hybrid we tested is one of 150 that will be distributed in a handful of regions before the car's 2012 rollout. We drove it in mixed weekday afternoon traffic outside San Diego.

prototype 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, April 2010

prototype 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, April 2010

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STYLE: Stickers aside, little difference

All Prius Plug-In Hybrids are painted in a unique silvery blue color called Blue Mica Metallic. Toyota also proudly highlights the silver finish on the door handles and the crossbar of the rear hatch.

There are also the visually busy lower side stickers, which include a plug-and-sun graphic and the words "Plug-In Hybrid." Also, three separate phrases: "Advanced Ecological," "The Evolution of Hybrid for Sustainability," and "Toyota Plug-In Hybrid Technology."

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Comments (11)
  1. OK, so the Volt has a 16 KWH pack and the Prius has a 5 KWH pack. So the Volt seems better.
    However, perhaps I am not the only one, I feel the Prius is more likely to work properly than the Chevy Volt. I would jump right in and buy a Plug-in Prius the moment it came out. But I think I would wait a couple of years on the Volt. Does Chevy really have the experience to produce an E-REV?
    John C. Briggs

  2. @John C. Briggs: I think both carmakers are acutely aware that in launching new technology of this type, they have to be sure to get it right. And from talking to engineers on both teams, I know they're being fairly conservative to ensure that there are no nasty surprises. Given that no other maker has produced an E-REV to date, I'd say GM has as good a shot as anyone. My two cents.

  3. @John Briggs: The 2012 Prius is a plug-in hybrid (as is the Volt). The Prius has an electric-only range of 15 miles, but can be fully charged with 110V in only 3 hours (and about half that with 220V). Someone with an 8-mile commute could go electric-only in both directions with recharging facilities at work. If one needs to go farther, the gasoline engine can power the car for an unlimited range. With the Volt, you are limited to a total range of 375 miles (gasoline + EV).
    Which is the better tradeoff? It's hard to say. I believe the Prius will have both a substantially lower curb weight and substantially lower price than the Volt. The lower weight should make for a livelier car.
    I do wish that Chevy would stop calling the Volt and EV car. They have created massive confusion in the marketplace. It is a plug-in hybrid. The Nissan Leaf and the Tesla models are real EV cars.
    The Chevy requires premium fuel for the gasoline engine. I think that was a bad choice; rental car and car pool users may be tempted to use regular fuel. If the Chevy designers were interested in maximum energy-efficiency, I think a clean-burning diesel engine would have been a better choice.

  4. I own a 2010 Toyota Prius II and absolutely LOVE it!! Except for the seats which could be more comfortable. Too wide and flat! But I guess for most American's it will be a perfect fit! Also the steering wheel is WAY to big! and it's oval!
    But besides those two things..I am in LOVE with my Prius.
    My average MPG varies between 48 MPG. to 54 MPG.!!! I can't imagine what I would get with the Plug-In!
    The Prius Plug-In is going to be a HUGE hit! The Chevy Volt's sales are not good at all, the Nissan Leaf sold more! For someone who drives less than 60 miles between charges, the Volt is the clear winner. Once the hybrid battery goes,though,the Volt gets low MPG. Someone driving MORE than 60 miles between charges, the Prius is the clear winner.

  5. Just wait until the time comes when your Prius is headed for the junkyard. Recycling all of those environmentally dirty electrical components that make up the Prius drive system is going to be EXPENSIVE. The Prius is environmentally dirty from the time that the rare earth materials for the motor are mined to the day comes for them to be recycled.

  6. Hybrids are NOT green (no exceptions). The rare earth elements required to build that motor and electrical system that powers the hybrids are produced using a very dirty, environmentally unfriendly mining process. Hybrids also make our electronic equipment more expensive. Hybrids compete with electronic goods for those rare earth elements, thus making those elements more expensive. Cars have run for over 100 years without being hybrids. Your iPod/iPhone/iPad/etc cannot run without them. Go buy a diesel for economy.

  7. @Randall: According to M.A. Weiss et al., in a 2000 report from the MIT Energy Laboratory, "On the Road in 2020: A Lifecycle Analysis of New Automotive Technologies," fully 75 percent of a vehicle’s lifetime carbon emissions come from the fuel it burns, and another 19 percent from production of that fuel.

    Extraction of raw materials that make up the vehicle adds 4 percent, and only 2 percent of lifetime carbon is due to the manufacturing and assembly. While hybrids may be slightly more emitting in raw materials and assembly, due to their added battery pack and electric machinery, the difference in overall lifetime carbon in *manufacturing* hybrids and conventional cars is negligible.

  8. Carbon dioxide emissions are not pollution. NOx, CO, SO2 (diesels), and unburned hydrocarbons are automobile pollutants. Current emission technologies (catalytic converters and particulate filters) effectively convert these into non-toxic gasses: CO2, N2, H2O. The mining of the rare earth materials required for electric motors is polluting: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_ch_Q6ZQvM

  9. The U.S. Supreme Court has decided that, in fact, CO2 *is* a pollutant and the Environmental Protection Agency not only can but must regulate it. There are different types of pollution, obviously. But are you proposing that ideally, motor vehicles should have no electric motors or electronics?

  10. Every vehicle has to have some form of electronics. They always have. But the vast majority of the electronics on a car do NOT use rare earth materials. Only expensive high end motors and high end electronics (iPods, iPhones, computers, etc) use them at all. The motors that operate windows are cheap motors. The motor that drives automobiles uses rare earth materials...ALOT of rare earth materials. Hybrids have very large electric motors.

  11. That decision was more about the EPA’s power to regulate than specifically the issue of CO2 gasses. CO2 was the catalyst for the court case. That ruling was made before the Climategate scandal of 2009. The unproved premise of man-made climate change is what the Supreme Court based their decision on and you still believe. Climategate put all research done on global warming under high scrutiny (which it always should have been). Many scientists flushed their careers down the toilet when they were exposed in Climategate.

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