They won't look like the second-generation Prius plug-in pictured above, but Toyota has announced the first of its non-European leasing programs for its new PHEV (see here). Starting late this year Toyota will start leasing 200 plug-capable Priuses to government and commercial fleets in Japan. A similar program has been mentioned by Toyota executives for the U.S. market in the past and an announcement on that should probably be coming soon.

The new batch of plug-in Priuses are based on the recently-introduced third-generation model. Unlike the original factory prototypes that have been running for over a year, the new iteration will use lithium ion batteries. That is the first such application for Toyota aside from prototypes like its fuel cell Highlanders. In addition to the 200 cars in Japan, the U.S. and Europe will each get 150 cars. A version of the PHEV Prius for retail sale is expected in about two years.

[Source: Toyota]

June 3, 2009

TMC to Lease 200 Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles in Japan
Tokyo - TOYOTA MOTOR CORPORATION (TMC) announces it will lease a plug-in hybrid vehicle in Japan in collaboration with local governments selected under the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry's EV & PHV Towns program1, which aims to promote the widespread use of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

TMC is developing a plug-in hybrid vehicle-based on the third-generation "Prius"- equipped with a lithium-ion battery that can be charged via external power sources such as household electricity. This will be the first time a lithium-ion battery is to be employed in a Toyota vehicle for propulsion. Starting at the end of 2009, TMC plans to lease approximately 200 of the vehicles to designated users such as government ministries, local governments and corporations.

A plug-in hybrid vehicle operates as an electric vehicle when used for short distances and can operate as a conventional hybrid vehicle when used for medium to long-distance trips. This means it can be used regardless of remaining battery power or availability of battery-charging infrastructure in place. Furthermore, plug-in hybrid vehicles are expected to achieve higher fuel efficiency than conventional hybrid vehicles, limit consumption of fossil fuels, reduce CO2 emissions and atmospheric pollution, and, by charging with off-peak electricity, promise a more economical vehicle powering solution.

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.

TMC has positioned hybrid technologies as core environmentally considerate vehicle technologies and is using them in the development not only of plug-in hybrid vehicles but also electric vehicles and fuel-cell hybrid vehicles. TMC will continue its efforts to achieve sustainable mobility by developing and putting into practical use these next-generation vehicles, which are hoped to contribute to reducing petroleum consumption, reducing CO2 emissions and responding to the diversification of energy sources.

1An intensive model program for the introduction and promotion of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles as well as accelerating the setting up of charging infrastructures and the development of societal awareness and preparedness through the collaboration of the national and local governments, regional businesses and auto manufacturers in Japan. Action plans are expected to be developed this summer by each participating local government, and a master action plan based on the results of each program is expected to be developed at the end of this fiscal year.

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