Toyota Unveils Plug-in Prius

July 25, 2007: Source – Reuters

Plug and Prius

Toyota unveiled a plug-in hybrid car based on its popular Prius model on Wednesday. Until this news, Toyota was sitting on the sidelines regarding plug-in technology, while nearly every other major car company has unveiled plans for producing cars that run on energy supplied by the electric grid. Toyota is not giving a timeline because of uncertainties regarding battery technology.

The vehicle, called Toyota Plug-in HV, displayed Wednesday runs on the same nickel metal hydride battery as the Prius and has a cruising range of 8 miles on electricity.

General Motors is the only company with a specific target date for a plug-in hybrid. It has set 2010 as a target for production of the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in series hybrid. Toyota remains cautious about assigning a date for production of a plug-in Prius.

The world’s biggest automaker said the car, called the Toyota Plug-in HV, was not fit for commercialisation since it uses low-energy nickel-metal hydride batteries instead of lithium-ion batteries believed to be a better fit for rechargeable plug-in cars.

Unlike earlier gasoline-electric hybrids, which run on a parallel system twinning battery power and a combustion engine, plug-in cars are designed to enable short trips powered entirely by the electric motor, using a battery that can be charged through an electric socket at home.

Many environmental advocates see them as the best available technology to reduce gasoline consumption and global-warming greenhouse gas emissions, but engineers say battery technology is still insufficient to store enough energy for long-distance travel.

"It’s difficult to say when plug-in hybrids could be commercialised, since it would depend largely on advances in battery technology," said Executive Vice President Masatami Takimoto, in charge of Toyota’s powertrain technology, told a news conference.

Notwithstanding the uncertain timing for the battery technology, Toyota’s announcement makes the likelihood of mass-produced plug-in hybrids even more certain.

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  • Jeff

    Looks like the aftermarket crowd along with the Tesla Roadster folks will be the test bed for LiIon and LiPo battery systems instead of the major auto makers. Is anyone collecting reliability and performance data on the aftermarket plug-in systems being offered?

  • Steven B

    Google.org is doing research on plug-in hybrid tech. They’re also doing research on Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) tech and the potential for renewable energy management using they’re own fleet of converted Priuses. You can see their data on their website. Just google it.

  • sean

    Hope that Panasonic, Toyota’s partner will come up with a solution on batteries. We desperately need it.

  • sean
  • Indigo

    Even an 8 mile EV range would suit me fine. My drive to work and back is a whopping 8.2 miles, which means that i’d have to burn gasoline only for the last 900 feet of my commute.. I wonder how much such an option would cost?

  • Rob

    How does the embodied energy / pollution of plug-in compare to non plug in hybrids considering the widely varying in fuel and efficiency electric plants and distribution grids. How about embodied energy very efficient non hybrid to hyrbid / plug=in hybrid?

  • Max Reid

    At 8 miles / day and if we drive 300 days / year, that works out to around 2,400 miles / year, which may be around 20 % of our miles travelled.

    8 mile range is definitely a good start. At this point all we need is a vehicle in the affordable price range.

  • Hal Howell

    I wonder why they are neglecting to look at the aftermarket companies such as A123, Hymotion, and CalCars who have already demonstrated workable lion battery technology? I can understand trying to keep it all in the family but when someone else solves the problem it would seem prudent to at least look into it. I wonder if after getting the option you could ditch the NMHD batteries for the Lion battery that is home grown. That way one could at least save on the conversion process. Maybe Toyota ought to consider the plug-in idea as an option without providing the extra battery. Then the buyer could add the battery himself or the dealership could offer it as an add on at the time of purchase.

  • Harmsy

    This is good progress – albeit apparently slow, what with PHEV capability available through third parties for some time, seemingly ignored in terms of battery technology, but I suspect not in reality. It also puts pressure on Honda to offer plug-in for their next hybrids. Every time my dealer phones me and asks me to test drive the new Civic Hybrid, I say “But what’s wrong with the one I bought from you 4 years ago?” and then ask whether I can plug the new one in… I think every hybrid owner should do this each time they speak to their dealerships…

  • Oracle

    I think the issue that Toyota and other manufacturers need to face is that people aren’t stupid. They know better battery technology is right around the corner. They’ll wait for it rather than buy now, unless the manufacturers offer, as probably the main selling point in the interim, the certainty that when the better battery tech finally arrives, that they’ll be able to replace the battery tech in their car now. I’m not hearing anything regarding that now. You want one throat to choke if things go wrong, so the aftermarket would not be an option for me on such an expensive item.

  • MDuoba

    If you stay below 60MPH and do not press the accel harder than 44kW of powertrain demand, you can drive EV. However, in the USA, I am not sure if such a PHEV will keep the engine off at start-up. It may need to start, then shut-down for emissions.

  • James

    So let me get this straight. Calcars.org with their converted plug in hybrids, the EV cars that were crunched by GM that were leased for years and the Tesla roadster all are wrong. Something stinks to high skies here folks! Altair batteries are leagues ahead, the Tesla roadster has been thoroughly tested and the old EV1 cars worked. The auto companies have to stop feeding us this misinformation. EVs can go more than 8 miles on a charge and the technology is out there. Now if we want to talk about price and mass manufacturing issues then I am all ears for now, but do not feed me this horse crud of the technology is not there!

  • DR

    Heard Denis Hayes on the radio a few days ago talking about the potential to use plug-in hybrids as energy storage devices for the grid. Once enough are out there they could be programed to sell or consume electricity depending on owner need.

    This would help smooth out the peaks and valley in grid power production needs.

    Interesting idea.

  • John

    I’ll be all for it until I go to jump into my car and discover I’m grounded because a program decided it had to help smooth out a peak. It’s been said before but, when I see a car that can handle my commute to work plus a few errands and is affordable, I will buy it. I’m probably not going to shell out for a new plug in and turn right around to have CalCar or whomever retrofit it to get what I need. Remember, this is only the start of a mass market offering. Allow time for the companies who choose to ignore the problem time to catchup.

  • Al

    I have a 2005 Prius and it has been very dependable. I did buy the Toyota 100,000 mile bumber to bumper warranty, so I feel confident that all risk is covered during that time. I have had a couple of problems but Toyota took care of them. I would really like to install an extended battery system to get the estimated 40 miles of driving before the gas engine is needed. With that I would never have to buy gas as my usage is not over the 40 mile range per day. How can we speed this up??

  • Green Republican

    My commute is only 11 miles round-trip, and the stores/restaurants I patronize during the week are within 5 miles of home or work. An all-electric range of 25 miles would easily suffice for my weekdays ………………………………………………… My situation is not unusual. The Fed Highway Admin reported that for 2005, “Rural residents have an average work trip length of 14.0 miles while urban commutes average only 10.6 miles.” See http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policy/ohim/hs05/national_household_info.htm ……………………………………………. Imagine the reduction in air pollution if even 20-30 million Americans could burn gas only on the weekend……………….. Just as important, we’d reduce the amount of money we send to Islamist or otherwise totalitarian oil-exporting regimes. Better to give billions of dollars to American and Japanese car companies than to Saudi Arabia (#1 net oil exporter in 2006), Iran (#4), and Venezuela (#6).

  • Doug Thompson

    GOD HELP US $4.00 A GALLON IS DESTROYING OUR WAY OF LIFE. INFLATION IS OUT OF CONTROL, WE CAN”T AFFORD TO BUY HEALTH INSURANCE, WE ARE DESTROYING THE ENVIORNMENT, WE ARE AT WAR FOR OIL,WHEN WILL THIS NIGHTMARE END?

    SOLAR PANELS + PLUG IN HYBRIDS IS THE ANSWER!

  • Anonymous

    GM and Toyota already tested and proved the NiMH batteries out, just before the pulled the plug on the EV1 and Rav4-EV.

  • Roger Nicholas

    I have an 05 Prius and I like getting 50 mpg. I would also be interested in whatever retro-fit available to make it a plug-in as well. However, let me assure you, as soon as we start buying less gas, our dear Uncle Sam is going to figure out a way to get his pound of flesh to pay for highway usage. The “gummet” loves getting your tax dollars. They will have some kind of metering device on your cars charging system for that assessment. It’s just a matter of time. Although, clean air isn’t something you would have to sneeze at.

  • Aussie Bob

    I wouldn’t be too focussed on the 8km limit – the EV1 had a far greater range, and my new Prius has a vast empty storage area under the boot floor. I’m actually surprised they got 8km – the standard Prius battery pack (the one they used for the TEST) is not designed to sustain long distances – and this is entirely appropriate for the hybrid configuration. I’m hoping that there’ll be a plug-in upgrade available to extend the life of this Prius – seems adequately well built to go well past 10 years (I’ve maintained far lesser vehicles for longer).

    Rob M

  • joy29

    i hope that plug in hybrids will be out in the market soon, for plug in cars are the solution for today’s rising gas prices. -from the Auto Biz Guru’s point of view