Does the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid Have 6 or 11 Miles Electric Range?

Want to start a fight between certain diehard Chevy Volt fans and Prius supporters? Tell the Volt fans the Prius PHV has 11 miles all-electric range and you’ll be off and running.

Since we don’t like to argue and would not want to be upsetting, we’ll leave our personal opinion out, but must otherwise report the real number is not six or 11, it is up to 15 miles electric range.

But if you don’t agree, we understand. And you would be correct that the window sticker says six miles all-electric, and 11 miles electric plus gas, and no where does it state 15.

That said, the “15” number was agreed upon as a number of significance by the EPA and Toyota and hopefully what follows will add light to the issues.

2012_Toyota_Prius_Plugin_EPA_Label-a

When the Prius PHV was launched in early 2012, Toyota told the media the relatively diminutive 4.4-kwh battery was good for up to 15 miles.

And no, these were not miles measured in Japan where the JC08 test cycle says things like the Nissan Leaf may actually get 141 miles in Japan. These are U.S. estimates.

According to Toyota’s Environmental Communications Manager Jana Hartline, the six and 11 mile figures are agreed-upon values following EPA certification testing.

“The 11 mile range is a composite value from the EPA city test and the highway test and represents the distance the vehicle was driven from a fully charged state until the battery has been depleted,” said Hartline.

In other words, 11 miles is a compromise, and the EPA and Toyota agreed it could under the right conditions go 15, but this was required to be whittled down by 30 percent, or to 11 miles.

“Essentially, [11 miles] is the original 15 mile value reduced by 30 percent (as is required),” said Hartline. “During this test, the blended PHV will be operating primarily on battery energy, but the gasoline engine may intermittently engage to meet additional power requirements (i.e. acceleration, high speeds). The test ends when the battery is depleted.”

SEE ALSO: 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid Review

If this is not clear enough, “depleted” means sustained all-electric propulsion is no longer possible and the car must switch back into regular hybrid mode like the Prius Liftback upon which it is based – teetering off of gas and electric.

The battery is otherwise certified for 11 miles.

Here is a recent reader comment:  The Plug-in Prius EV range is only six miles, not eleven! That "eleven" number is in a "combiined mode", burning gas and using electricity at the same time, which can never compete against any EREV or BEV. If the EPA used that rating on the Volt, its "combined" range would be over 400 miles!! Who ever still believe in that fool's tale deserves to be dropped in the Pacific Ocean inside their Prius!!

Here is a recent reader comment: The Plug-in Prius EV range is only six miles, not eleven! That “eleven” number is in a “combined mode,” burning gas and using electricity at the same time, which can never compete against any EREV or BEV. If the EPA used that rating on the Volt, its “combined” range would be over 400 miles!! Who ever still believe in that fool’s tale deserves to be dropped in the Pacific Ocean inside their Prius!!

Driven carefully and without a heavy foot it can go farther than its maximum-rated range – as is true of all other plug-in hybrids which also had the 30 percent factor cut under EPA rules for their window stickers. Otherwise, Toyota PHV drivers know they can drive well more than six miles, but online disagreements have been known to ensue with people throwing the “six mile” sticker value in their face.

True enough, the EPA says six miles all electric, but what does this mean? It means the drive cycle – strictly following a predetermined format to simulate certain conditions – necessitated a firm press of the accelerator which kicked the gas on.

All “blended” plug-in hybrids can do this. This is not an exclusive Achilles heel of the Prius PHV. Give a hard enough press of the accelerator, and you’ll kick the engine on for the Ford Energis, the Porsche PHEVs, Honda Accord PHEV, Hyundai Sonata PHEV – all of them.

Only the Chevy Volt, an “extended-range electric vehicle” is engineered to keep gas off even if you floor it. Its top speed is the highest at 100 mph for generation one, and it can accept full acceleration in all-electric mode. It also has a larger 16-17.1-kwh battery and powerful propulsion system enabling this functionality.

As it is, during EPA testing the Prius did kick the gas on before the 11 miles was achieved and the clock officially stopped, as it were.

The Volt has remained the highest range gas-electric car short of the BMW i3 REx. It started with 35 miles in 2011, rose to 38 in 2013, and the 2016 is rated 57 city, 49 highway, 53 miles EV range combined. Volt fans do have something to boast about, this is true.

The Volt has remained the highest range gas-electric car short of the BMW i3 REx. It started with 35 miles in 2011, rose to 38 in 2013, and the 2016 is rated 57 city, 49 highway, 53 miles EV range combined. Volt fans do have something to boast about, this is true.


“The 6 mile range is also a composite value from the city test and the highway test and represents the distance the vehicle was driven from a fully charged state until the gasoline engine first comes on,” said Hartline.

So, the gas came on at six miles. Does that mean this is as far on all-electric mode the Prius PHV can go? On the EPA test cycle, the answer is yes. In real world driving conditions, the answer is no or maybe – it depends.

The Prius PHV is capable of traveling on battery power alone farther than six miles. This is why the EPA made the distinction of “electric plus-gas.” This is not the same as when the vehicle truly does run out of battery power for the propulsion motor and morphs back to a regular Prius.

“Note that a blended PHV will allow the engine to come on even though the battery has not yet been depleted in order to meet additional power requirements,.” said Hartline. “However, EPA wanted to provide a range value that identifies strictly EV operation, thus the lower 6 mile range number. The way the testing protocol is structured and the fact that the gasoline engine automatically turns on at speeds above 62 mph determined that outcome. With a less aggressive protocol and limiting the vehicle speed to under 62 mph, an all-electric range of closer to 15 miles can be achieved.”

Future Revenge?

True enough, the Prius PHV has the lowest all-electric range among plug-in hybrids but it’s believed internally at Toyota that the engineers in Japan may release a higher range PHV.

The 2016 regular Prius could be first seen this month or next and Toyota will dribble out info through the year to keep people interested. This does not come from Hartline, but another person within the company who has seen the new Prius, and is in the loop.

Is this the 2016 Prius PHV? No one says so at Toyota, but it's been reported Toyota is sharpening its act in light of known competition.

Is this the 2016 Prius PHV? No one says so at Toyota, but it’s been reported Toyota is sharpening its act in light of known competition.


The 2016 Prius PHV will also benefit from superior fuel economy in regular hybrid mode even when the still-smaller battery energy depletes – however far this may be.

People have said this is an apple-and orange comparison. It may be, but it also could be a sad commentary that with only 0.63 percent market share for plug-in hybrids and battery electric cars in the U.S. that factions have already broken out.

The three Musketeers’ motto was “all for one, one for all.” There is also such a thing as enlightened self interest, and being all in on the same cause. Plug-in cars are a minority and success of any helps the rest.

So, Toyota’s PHV is a solution. If it is not for you, so be it. The Volt is a solution. If it is not for you, so be it. Same goes for any car you name.

To each his own. But now you know the skinny between “six” and “11” mile electric range.