Prius Plug-in Hybrid

Canada has some of the world’s most generous consumer incentives for plug-in cars—and the most thoughtful pro-electric-car policies. Last year, Mitsubishi provided its all-electric i-MiEV to British Columbia government and utility fleets. The Canadian province will be among the first North American cities to roll out the Nissan Leaf electric sedan. And Toyota announced today that it will work with 13 partners test the Prius Plug-in Hybrid in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Québec. The Canada project represents a test of five plug-in Priuses, out of 600 models being tested in global markets. spoke with Larry Hutchinson, director of production planning, Toyota Canada, at the 2010 Globe Conference in Vancouver, where the announcement was made. “Canada has very diverse geographical areas. We have prairies where people drive a lot of distance. We have areas with very cold weather. Canada has a role to play in understanding the consumer and this vehicle.” Canada is home to Toyota’s global cold weather research center in Northern Ontario. Cold weather has a definite adverse effect on battery performance and range.

The Prius Plug-in Hybrid, expected to hit the market about 2012, promises an electric driving range of about 12 miles—boosting fuel efficiency to approximately the equivalent of 75 miles per gallon. Today’s announcement marks Canada’s first test of a plug-in hybrid, rather than an all-electric car.

Each test vehicle will be fitted with a telematics device to capture performance data, and partners—BC Institute of Technology, University of Manitoba, Hydro-Québec, and the City of Toronto—are being encouraged to drive the plug-in Prius in as many road, traffic and weather conditions as possible.

Hutchinson believes the plug-in Prius will find a sizable market in Canada. “The conventional Prius is now a mainstream car. And as we learn more and more about it, I think the Prius Plug-in Hybrid could also go mainstream.”