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Leaving no stone unturned when looking at a more efficient future, Toyota has teamed up with the Univerisity of California to further study the viability of plug-in hybrid versions of the Prius. As part of the research, Toyota donated two prototype Prius models modified for plug-in operations to the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Berkeley and the Advanced Power and Energy Program at UC Irvine. The two university programs will study ways to measure and test fuel economy and emissions, including upstream emissions from power generation, as well as what sacrifices people are willing to make, how much they'd actively seek to plug their cars in, and what type of range and charge time they're willing to live with.

The current Prius provides a good base for the research, and didn't change drastically to pull PHEV duty. There's a larger battery pack occupying the space normally reserved for the spare tire, and the powertrain controller allows more frequent EV-mode operation, as well as running on battery to about 60 mph. The battery pack size will shrink as new technologies come online, and the limited (7 miles) range in EV mode will likely also increase. Quite an about-face from the days not too long ago when Toyota was vociferously denouncing PHEV conversions of their cockroach-shaped four-wheeled eco-statement.

Hit the jump for Toyota's press release.

Toyota Delivers Plug-in Prius to UC Irvine and UC Berkeley As Part of Clean Mobility Partnership

11/09/2007 Torrance, CA
- Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., (TMS) today presented two Toyota plug-in (PHEV) hybrid prototypes to the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Berkeley (UCB) and the Advanced Power and Energy Program at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) as part of its on-going sustainable mobility development program with the two UC campuses.

"We feel there is tremendous promise in plug-in hybrids," said Bob Carter, Toyota Division group vice president and general manager. "However, there are still many questions to be answered and challenges to be resolved before Toyota can bring a product to market that has the quality, durability and reliability that customers expect from us. The universities will help us and California better understand what it will take to turn these options into meaningful solutions."

Toyota has a long history of working collaboratively with both universities on the development of advanced technology and alternative-fuel vehicles, including demonstration and research programs involving fuel cell vehicles, gas-electric hybrids and pure electric vehicles. This next phase of the partnership involving plug-in hybrid vehicles is being funded jointly with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the California Energy Commission (CEC). The goal of this program, which was authorized under California Assembly Bill 1811, is to incentivize the use and production of alternative fuels and vehicles.

"As the state with the nation"s most challenging air quality issues, California has a vital interest in developing and promoting the use of clean, cutting-edge automotive technologies, said Thomas Cackette, chief deputy executive officer of CARB. "The Air Resources Board is proud to play a pivotal role in financially supporting this plug-in hybrid project. We look forward to the results of the study and the potential implications this groundbreaking research may have for all of us in California who want cleaner transportation options."

The Toyota PHEVs delivered today are based on the current-generation Prius, the world"s first and most popular hybrid vehicle. The cars are powered by oversized packs of nickel-metal hydride batteries that effectively simulate the level of performance Toyota expects to achieve when it eventually develops more advanced, compact and powerful battery systems.

The prototypes are designed to run in electric mode more often, and at higher speeds, than the current Prius. This results in substantial gains in fuel economy and a major reduction in total tailpipe emissions. Reductions in CO2 emissions will vary depending on the source of the electricity that recharges the secondary battery. Charging is done conveniently, with an ordinary three-prong cord and household electrical outlet. The extra battery is housed in the trunk, taking up what was space for a spare tire.

UC Irvine will be focusing on some of the technical challenges, as well as determining the emissions benefits of plug-ins, including:
• How to measure and test fuel economy and vehicle emissions;
• How to account for the upstream emissions from electricity generation;
• In regions with a higher-carbon grid mix, whether plug-ins would provide an emissions benefit.

"The Toyota PHEV represents the introduction of electricity into a fuel mix that supports a full-featured vehicle," said Scott Samuelsen, professor and director of UC Irvine"s Advanced Power and Energy Program. "Our alliance with UC Berkeley will allow us to undertake key research in areas ranging from engineering to social dynamics across the breadth of California."

UC Berkeley will primarily focus on the customer experience, including:
• Whether consumers would want to plug in their vehicles;
• What trade-offs drivers are willing to make between range, charging time, battery size and battery cost;

• When people will charge and if drivers will want access to outlets where they work and shop.
"The Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Berkeley is delighted to participate in the Clean Mobility Partnership with the project's sponsors and partners," said Prof. Mike Cassidy, acting director of the institute. "The project will conduct ground breaking, real-world research with plug-in hybrid and fuel cell electric vehicles to better understand potential vehicle usage and refueling patterns, consumer perceptions, economics, and energy and environmental impacts.

All of these questions are important in determining the optimal product attributes. Developing a future vehicle landscape that includes alternative fuels and high-efficiency, low-emission vehicles will require the coordination and cooperation of many partners. Toyota will continue to do its part to advance all of the possible solutions to reducing the greenhouse gas and emissions impacts of the automobile.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      The only problem I have with this is that is still looks like a Prius, other than that, it's pretty sweet.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Very cool. This is nothing new. There are few of these running around in CA getting between 100 and 150 mpg with updated batteries. Can't wait to see what the college hoodlums will come up with.

      Toyota haters, come onnn down. I bet this will go to 4 - 5 pages. Let the bashing begin.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Batteries don't increase pollution any more than oil refining does. Yes, metal smelting is nasty, but petroleum refineries aren't great either.

        If you mean _disposal_, then you're assuming people will be throwing these batteries away. I don't know about your habits (ie, if you throw away instead of recycle, pour motor oil into the drain, etc) but large quantities of semiprecious metals are usually reclaimed for recycling in most jurisdictions as it's cheaper to reprocess then to mine and refine.

        Much of the grumbling I hear about hybrids sounds a lot like the grumbling we used to hear about fuel injection and emissions control. Hybrid systems are here to stay, regardless of what your pet propulsion method or fuel type is, as it's an excellent way to reclaim and reduce the net energy required to operate a car.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Go Bears!
      • 7 Years Ago
      Toyota's engineers got outdone quite some time ago by the people who have been making the aftermarket conversions with lithium ion batteries - and with more than one company's batteries, at that. Meanwhile, Toy has been trying to deceive consumers by trying to convince them that Li-ion isn't safe or durable enough yet - when the simple fact is that they are technologically behind.
        • 7 Years Ago
        So, those Sony laptop batteries that were catching fire weren't a problem, then? How about all those cellphone batteries that explode or catch fire yearly?

        The fact is that LiIon is requires careful charging and management as it's much more volatile than NiMH/NiCad or lead-acid. If _one_ battery pack catches fire, Toyota will be behind a legal eightball because self-immolation is a feature of LiIon cells that manufacturers have had to work very hard to avoid.

        A smoldering laptop is one thing. A car that catches fire is quite another.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Toyota Canada gave our school 4 engines, a Sienna, and an Echo. They were quite generous. lol
      • 7 Years Ago
      Bill, because American carmakers think we are in 1920's.

      Because most GM and Ford owners think that a hybrid is someone who has an African American dad and white Mom. And for the record GM to date has ZERO hybrids on the road and ford borrows Toyota's technology.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Ford does not borrow Toyota's technology. It worked something like this...

        Ford developed their hybrid system but were having problems with engine shut off/start. Toyota let them peek at their code for a chance to look at Ford's diesel technology.

        In the end, Ford didn't use Toyota's code because they developed their own code that is considered superior to Toyota's by most industry experts. Toyota didn't end up using Ford's diesel technology because it was easier to acquire diesel technology than actually invest billions in a ground up program.

        They don't borrow. Such a moron.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Now, to be fair, GM has a few hybrids (Aura, Vue, the trucks and larger SUVs) on the road. Of course, what they have had up until just this past month were very weak BAS hybrids that pretty much existed just so GM could wave a flag about having _something_ in the consumer hybrid space.

        At least Ford had the Escape. GM's first consumer hybrid didn't show until the BAS trucks and heir first non-pickup was the Vue just this past year. The Volt is nice and all, but it's further from being a real car than the Cadillac Sixteen.

        Toyota has had a very capable mass-market system since, what, 1997? They also sell more vehicles in this market than anyone else, even if you exclude "performance hybrids" like the Lexus GS and LS. They've had hybrid trucks overseas as well.
        • 7 Years Ago

        Chevy Silverado hybrid
        GMC Sierra hybrid
        Saturn Vue Green Line
        GM Allison hybrid bus (been on the road for years)
        GM EMD diesel electric locomotives. Yea, not 'on the road' but tracks are sorta like roads.

        Coming soon:
        Aura Green Line
        Vue Green Line
        Malibu hybrid
        Tahoe hybrid
        Yukon hybrid
        Escalade hybrid

      • 7 Years Ago
      PHEV conversions void the battery warranties if I remember correctly. That's how they denounced them one way. Secondly, just a couple weeks ago they were saying how PHEVs probably weren't appropriate for the market and that more efficient normal hybrids were probably the answer.

      However, GM and Ford are both moving in this space; GM with some corporate plug-ins and Ford with plug-ins at Cal Edison. So, Toyota cannot lose this PR war (which really all hybrids are for the moment). Therefore, game on!

      Ultimately, it will be good for us, because we might actually get a good selection of highly efficient automobiles by the middle of next decade from these three plus Honda, Nissan and maybe Chrysler.
      • 7 Years Ago
      1. Somebody somewhere must have calculated what effect plug in vs. gas powered battery recharge has environmentally and cost wise. It is so touted as a great thing but is it really better? I'd like to see what realty is being better or worse than a standard Prius. I guess this may be part of the research.

      2. There should be alternate units used for energy use given the combined systems we are starting see used in vehicles. I think Watts would work, maybe there is something better. Giving gas mileage is a meaningless measurement if you are adding other energy to the system. It is like saying I'm getting 150 mpg gas in my Magnum while not mentioning the ethanol I keep pouring into the tank.
        • 7 Years Ago
        How much money do we NOT send to the middle east by using plug-in hybrids? It's not just about pollution and saving money. Anything I can do to keep my American dollars out of the hands of Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Libya and other 3rd world countries the better.
        • 7 Years Ago
        So very true. I hear people spouting off about plugin cars and how much more of a revolution they are over current hybrids except it's not doing much except placeshifting pollution. And how much does your electric bill go up by plugging in a car overnight?
      • 7 Years Ago
      Why are US Universities helping protected, Japanese-subsidized COMPETITORS? That is the interesting question -Oh I know, while our roads are falling apart, Japan is putting in singing roads, OK I get it.
        • 7 Years Ago
        I know. Those liberal universities are so unpatriotic! Working with un-American values and peoples! Hell, just look at who their governor is.

        Agree totally on the road as well. unPatriotic Japanese working on their own roads instead of American roads. What a bunch of a$$holes!
        • 7 Years Ago
        Oh that's right bill, wouldn't you want to eliminate all competition? You know....that whole capitalism/free-market idea that America was founded upon?

        Get out you socialist traitor and go live in Russia if you don't want free market and competition.
      • 7 Years Ago
      TYO----"[edit] Environmental impact of battery
      The Mail on Sunday newspaper retracted an article linking Toyota's nickel-metal hydride battery (Ni-MH battery) production to environmental damage said to have been caused by nickel mining at a facility now owned by CVRD Inco at Sudbury, "in order to prevent further misinterpretation," and publishing in its place a rebuttal letter from Dave Rado. Rado accuses the article of inaccuracy, and notes that nickel is used for countless other purposes and that any damage occurred more than 30 years ago, long before the Prius was made.[38] However, the article's charges were repeated by followup articles in other publications, and provoked heated debate in online forums.[39] [40]

      A question often raised about the battery is whether it can, or will be, recycled and whether it will be source of pollution.[41][42] Toyota themselves state on their website: "Toyota has a comprehensive battery recycling program in place and has been recycling nickel-metal hydride batteries since the RAV4 Electric Vehicle was introduced in 1998. Every part of the battery, from the precious metals to the plastic, plates, steel case, and the wiring, is recycled. To ensure that batteries come back to Toyota, each battery has a phone number on it to call for recycling information and dealers are paid a $200 'bounty' for each battery."[43]

      LOL so you are so concerned with environment you choose to drive a SUV over Prius? Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

      tom thompson
      • 7 Years Ago
      GM dertermined at the time of production of thier Hybrid , that the cost per gallon was 60 cents . That being based on the then current cost of electricitry. Tom
      • 7 Years Ago
      "So, those Sony laptop batteries that were catching fire weren't a problem, then? How about all those cellphone batteries that explode or catch fire yearly?"

      **Toyota's own battery supply partners (Matsushita) are actually the ones responsible for many of those firecrackers**

      "The fact is that LiIon is requires careful charging and management as it's much more volatile than NiMH/NiCad or lead-acid. "

      WOW, someone needs to do some homework!

      You're thinking of lithium ion batteries with oxide-based cathodes that have been around for well over 15 years. More recently developed technologies ('96 and onwards) are far more stable under physical abuse, and can actually tolerate far rougher charging regimes than most other battery chemistries. They don't carry as much energy per given weight as the cell phone batteries - but still more than 2 or 3 times that of TOY's junky little prius batteries. We don't seem them in consumer electronics because high energy storage is the priority for cell phones, etc. Following over 10 years of maturation, they're finally finding their niche with PHEVs.
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