Rumors abound about new plug-in hybrids that will be available on the market in the near future. General Motors has already committed to having the Volt available by late 2010. Toyota recently announced that it would also offer a Prius model plug-in in 2010 but the details are still sketchy.
Currently, most hybrid models have a nickel-metal hydride battery as their electric component and a gasoline engine for the majority of driving. These batteries are very heavy and take up a lot of room in the trunk. Toyota has been testing out the new lithium-ion batteries which are much lighter and can produce more energy. However, they are more expensive to produce and could impact the cost of the new plug-in Prius.
Nevertheless, Toyota plans to use the lithium-ion batteries because it will take up less space and produce more power. Toyota has committed to having the plug-in version of the Prius available to the market in 2010 with an electric motor that can travel up to 62 mph and run on electricity for up to 7 miles. Once depleted, the batteries take three to four hours to recharge; they could in theory be charged by the Prius' gas engine as the vehicle rolls down the highway.
Toyota’s new plug-in Prius will differ from the hybrid Prius in that you can stay in electric mode much longer. In the current hybrid models, the electric motor switches to gas between 20 and 25 mph. In the new plug in model, you may be able to drive up to 60 mph on electric power alone. Those of us who live close to work could actually drive on electric power to and from work and use the gas engine only when travelling longer distances. An easy to use energy flow meter inside allows you to see exactly how much charge you have left and the car easily plugs into a standard outlet. When running electric only, the Prius might rate around 99 miles per gallon.
Toyota is currently road testing a version of the plug-in Prius using the nickel-metal hydride battery and the car has been seen in several major metropolitan areas with Plug-In Hybrid written on the sides. The roll out plan for 2010 is that the plug-in Prius will first be made available to commercial customers around the world and then later released to the general public.