Toyota to Lease 500 Lithium-Ion Plug-in Prius Hybrids, But Don't Hold Your Breath...


Photo: Michael Graham Richard
First Toyota to Officially Use Lithium-Ion Batteries
The good news first. Toyota has announced (pdf) that it will be leasing 500 plug-in hybrids globally (200 in Japan, 150 in the US, 150 in Europe). They will be based on the 2010 Toyota Prius, but they'll use a lithium-ion battery instead of the NiMH chemistry that the Prius normally uses. But here come the bad news...
Click to see our 2010 Toyota Prius slideshow. Photo: Toyota
Can I Get One?
Unless you are a government or a big corporation, your chances of getting your hands on a lithium-ion 2010 Prius are pretty much null. Toyota isn't saying yet who it will lease the cars to, but it won't be private individuals.

Toyota writes:

TMC believes that, in response to the diversification of energy sources, plug-in hybrid vehicles are currently the most suitable environmentally considerate vehicles for widespread use. TMC therefore intends to encourage the marketing of plug-in hybrid vehicles while introducing a total of 500 vehicles globally—primarily to fleet customers—to further use and understanding of the vehicles. TMC will introduce approximately 150 vehicles in the United States, as well as more than 150 vehicles in Europe, including 100 in France. TMC is also considering introducing plug-in hybrid vehicles in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Germany.

Technical Questions about Plug-in Prius
What I'm most curious about is what kind of electric range and speed the new lithium-ion battery pack will give the plug-in Prius. Will they program the car so it drives in all electric mode until the battery is almost empty, or will they keep the current programming of the Prius so that the gas engines kicks in more often (and the plugging-in will just help extend the low-speed EV range a bit)?

Will the li-ion battery fit in the same space as the current NiMH, or will they oversize it to reachGM Volt-like specs?

Check out our 2010 Toyota Prius slideshow!

Via Toyota, Green Car Congress

See also: Toyota to Cut New Prius Hybrid Base Price to $21,000, Offer 5 Trim Levels.

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Tags: Electric Cars | Electric Vehicles | Hybrid Cars | Japan | Transportation