Toyota to Mass-Produce Plug-In Hybrid in 2012... For $48,000!

toyota plug in hybrid prius photo

Photo: Michael Graham Richard
Too Bad the Electric Range is Pathetic
Certainly, it's a good thing that Toyota will start mass-producing a plug-in hybrid. But once you look at the numbers and specs, the news doesn't sound quite as good anymore. The company plans to produce about 20,000-30,000 plug-in hybrids (almost certainly based on the 3rd generation Toyota Prius), but sadly, the PHEVs will only have a range of 20-30 km (12.4-18.6 miles). What the hell is that, Toyota? A smaller electric range than the Chevy Volt at a price almost as high as a Tesla Model S!
toyota plug in hybrid prius photo

Photo: Michael Graham Richard

I hope that the Nikkei (via Reuters) is wrong when it says that: "Toyota wants to price its plug-in hybrids at a comparable price to Mitsubishi Motors Corp's all-electric car, which debuts this month to fleet customers in Japan at 4.59 million yen ($47,800) before government subsidies."

One problem that Toyota will run into is that people might not feel that paying over $20,000 more than a regular Prius hybrid is worth it for only a ±15 miles electric range. At least with the Mitsubishi i MiEV, you get a fully electric car that doesn't burn any gasoline. There are early adopters that are ready to pay more for that (all new technologies start out expensive, and the R&D; that drives down cost is paid for by these early adopters -- big thanks to them!).

But a plug-in hybrid with such a short all-electric range means that almost everybody who owns it will see their gasoline engine kick in during the course of their day (and how will the heavier batteries affect MPG?). That's not very impressive...

Toyota has also recently announced that it will lease 500 lithium-ion plug-in hybrids Prius to governments and big corporations. I'll be keeping an eye on these trials to see what kind of real-world range and MPG they're getting.

What Toyota Should Do
Instead, if Toyota could pull off that short-range PHEV for around $25,000-$28,000 and also mass-produce a 100% electric car for $40,000-50,000, now that would be progress. But sadly, the company doesn't seem very excited by electric vehicles. Maybe they're trying to pull an Apple; keep quiet about it until you can announce something that is ready for prime time. Let's hope so..

Via Reuters
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