Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid Concept
Toyota will show the final version of its prototype Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid at the Frankfurt Motor Show two weeks hence, trying to keep up with the flurry of electric, hybrid, and diesel concepts to be shown there.
With numerous concepts from German automakers, and GM pulling out all the publicity stops for its 2011 Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle, Toyota runs the risk of seeming like it's been left in other makers' green-tinged dust.
Modest plans, for fleets only
Despite having built more than half of all the hybrid-electric vehicles on the planet, Toyota's plans for its plug-in Prius are modest.
It will issue 150 test versions of the plug-in Prius to fleets in several European countries, as well as a like number here in the States. The first vehicles are to be delivered by the end of this year.
Toyota hasn't committed to a date when retail customers will be able to get their hands on a factory plug-in Prius, although 2012 would fit the rough timeline it has discussed in the past.
A thriving aftermarket industry exists in converting Priuses to plug-in operation, though the price isn't cheap. Hymotion and other converters charge from $9,500 to as much as $25,000 for varying degrees of electric range.
Lithium-ion battery pack
The main difference from a standard 2010 Toyota Prius is in the battery pack. It uses higher-energy lithium-ion cells, rather than the nickel-metal-hydride cells fitted to all Prius models since 1997 (in Japan) and 2000 (for the US).
Importantly, unlike the 2011 Volt, the 2010 Fisker Karma, and other "series hybrids," the Plug-In Prius will not run entirely in electric mode until its pack is depleted before switching on the engine.
Instead, the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid will extend the range and speed of the car's all-electric mode, but retain the ability to switch the engine on and off as needed.
Limited electric range
Toyota mentions electric speeds up to 60 miles per hour, and a range of as much as 12 miles, but those two likely won't occur at the same time.
Under some conditions--a cold day, a full load, and a lengthy uphill slog at Interstate speeds, say--the Prius Plug-In will likely run just as a standard Prius would.
Still, given Toyota's pre-eminence in today's hybrid technology, anything the company does with plug-ins is worth watching closely. The Prius Plug-In is sure to attract its share of attention on the stand at Frankfurt.
2008 Prius Plug-in Hybrid prototype
2007 Toyota Prius plug-in Hymotion conversion
The socket in the bumper shows that this Prius can recharge on grid power