Toyota's a Bit Late to the Lithium-Ion Party, But Better Late Than NeverWe've known it was coming for a while, but until now we didn't have official numbers on pricing and fuel economy for the 2012 Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid. Well, the wait is over! Toyota has released lots of info, and while I've been saying for a long time that I wished Toyota would put a bigger lithium-ion battery pack in the PHEV Prius (surprise! They didn't listen to me), there are some benefits to the configuration they settled on. Read on for more details.
Photo: ToyotaUnder the Hood: 2012 Prius PHEV Specifications
The 2012 Prius plug-in is basically a regular Prius that has been upgraded with a better battery pack, a newly developed 4.4 kWh lithium-ion pack (it weights 176lbs) replacing the old nickel metal hydride (NiMH) battery, a plug and external charging cable (24 feet long), and new software to squeeze out the most miles out of the new battery. It also features some new weight-saving tricks to offset the larger battery, making the PHEV version of the Prius only 123lbs heavier than the regular version.
The overall fuel economy rating for the Prius Plug-in Hybrid increases to a manufacturer-expected 87 MPGe, with the car achieving an estimated 49 MPG when operating in hybrid mode. The biggest fuel savings, and thus CO2 savings, will be realized by those who mostly travel short distances and can keep the 2012 Prius PHEV in electric mode.
The new battery pack is good for a 15 miles (24 kilometers) electric range, and the PHEV Prius can go up to 62 MPH (100 KPH) in EV mode, which is driver-selectable, so that if you know you're making only a short trip, you can easily keep the car in electric mode.
A full charge using an external AC outlet takes approximately 2.5 to 3.0 hours using a 120v household outlet or 1.5 hours using a 240v outlet. The included 120v charging cable connects to the charging port inlet located on the right-rear fender.
Pricing starts at $32,000 (before rebates, which should be substantial in most states and countries), all the way to $39,525 for the most expensive version.
Of course, it's still better to walk, bike, or take transit. But if you've got to have a car and are ready to spend a bit more to be an early adopter and encourage PHEVs, the 2012 Plug-in Prius deserves a look. Just make sure you also check out the Chevy Volt, the Nissan LEAF, and the upcoming Ford Focus EV.
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