Toyota Unveils Plug-in Prius

Today Toyota joined almost every other major car company who had already unveiled plans for producing cars that run on energy supplied by the electric grid. Announcing the official plug-in Prius based on the most popular hybrid vehicle to date, Toyota said it would test the fuel-saving vehicle on public roads -- an industry first and as Collin notes the cause of much hubub in our Forums. While renegades such as Cal Cars have been retrofiting out-of-box Priuses with plug-in technology for some time and Google recently took up the PHEV cause using the Prius as a guinea pig, we have to say that while it's been fun, we heartily welcome Toyota finally hitching its official vision and guidance to this enterprise. However, 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. More deets and a THTV webisode from the waining days of the renegade, DIY plug-in Prius when you Knievel the jump.Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV) shift pollution from a tailpipe to a power-plant. Even charging off the national grid, which is about 50% coal, the renegade plug-in Prius is known to produce under half the net pollution. Electricity use was calculated to be under $1/gallon, with the expectation that as the grid gets cleaner, so do the emissions of the vehicles.

Today's Toyota Plug-in HV 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. From Reuters:

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.

While you're waiting for the battery technology, THTV and CalCars show you how to get 100 miles per gallon from your current Prius just by making a few tweaks under the hood. :: Reuters :: Hybrid Cars