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Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid - Click above for high-res image gallery

Toyota rather unceremoniously parked their plug-in Prius at its North American market debut during the LA Auto Show, while their new Sienna minivan got a royal welcome at its coming out party. At a show that saw the production-ish Chevrolet Volt appearing in public for the first time, it might have seemed likely that Toyota would have made a bigger deal of this model, but we just sort of stumbled upon it while checking out the LFA.

The company did issue a press release, which you can read in its entirety after the jump. They announced that a global demonstration program will start this month in Japan and that the first batch of 500 Lithium-Ion batteries for those vehicles is moving down the assembly line as we speak. The 2010 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid (PHV) uses Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive package but adds their first generation lithium-ion battery so it can go all-electric further and faster than the regular hybrid. The electric-only range is just 13 miles but the Prius PHV will be able to run all the way up to 60 mph in electric-only mode.

Beyond that it reverts to regular hybrid mode with the gas engine and electric motor trading off depending on load and demand. The gas engine is important on this Prius PHV and cars like the Volt because it lessens the "range anxiety" drivers might feel in a pure electric -- that uneasiness that comes from thinking you could be stranded when the batteries run down.

Japan and Europe split the first batch of 350 vehicles, but early next year the next 150 are coming Stateside. These first PHV vehicles will serve as a test program for real world driving needs, kind of like the MINI E program going on right now. Toyota already announced that Boulder, Colorado is going to be the first community to get some of these plug-in hybrids. That's one way to see how cold temps affect battery performance. You can read the rest of the presser after the jump and there's a gallery available by clicking any image below.



[Source: Toyota]

PRESS RELEASE

2010 Prius Plug-in Hybrid Makes North American Debut at Los Angeles Auto Show
  • Global Demonstration Program Starts this Month in Japan
  • Assembly Line Production of 500 Lithium-ion Batteries Begins

TORRANCE, Calif., December 2, 2009 -- The 2010 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid vehicle (PHV) will make it's North American debut today at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Built specifically to support a global demonstration program that begins this month, the Prius PHV is based on the third-generation Prius. The vehicle expands Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive technology with the introduction of a first generation lithium-ion battery that enables all-electric operation at higher speeds and longer distances than the conventional Prius hybrid. When fully charged, the vehicle is targeted to achieve a maximum electric-only range of approximately 13 miles and will be capable of achieving highway speeds up to 60 mph in electric-only mode. For longer distances, the Prius PHV reverts to "hybrid mode" and operates like a regular Prius. This ability to utilize all-electric power for short trips or hybrid power for longer drives alleviates the issue of limited cruising range encountered with pure electric vehicles.

Beginning later this month, a total of 350 vehicles will begin delivery in Japan and Europe in support of model programs with business and government partners aimed at raising societal awareness of, and preparedness for, this important new technology.

Beginning early next year, 150 vehicles will start arriving in the U.S., where they will be placed in regional clusters with select partners for market/consumer analysis and technical demonstration.

On the consumer side, the U.S. program will allow Toyota to gather real world vehicle-use feedback to better understand customer expectations for plug-in technology. On the technical side, the program aims to confirm, in a wide variety of real world applications, the overall performance of first-generation lithium-ion battery technology, while spurring the development of public-access charging station infrastructure.

All vehicles will be equipped with data retrieval devices which will monitor activities such as how often the vehicle is charged and when; whether the batteries are depleted or being topped off during charging; trip duration, all-EV driving range, combined mpg and so on.

"This program is a necessary first step in societal preparation, in that it allows us the unique opportunity to inform, educate and prepare customers for the introduction of plug-in hybrid technology," said Irv Miller, TMS group vice president, environmental and public affairs. "When these vehicles come to market, customers must understand what to expect and if this technology is the right fit for them."

In October, Toyota announced its first regional program partnership with Xcel Energy's SmartGridCity program in Boulder, Colo. Ten PHVs will be placed with Boulder residents who will participate in an interdisciplinary research project coordinated by the University of Colorado at Boulder Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI), a new joint venture between the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the University of Colorado at Boulder.

RASEI, Xcel Energy and TMS will use this program to gather data on vehicle performance and charging patterns, consumer behavior and preferences, as well as electric utility/customer interactions. The locale offers the additional benefit of monitoring high altitude, cold climate performance of Toyota's first generation lithium-ion battery.

Additional partners will be announced soon. Regional programs are currently slated for California, Washington D.C., New York, Oregon and Pennsylvania. Each placement scenario will have a variety of 'use cases' or driving conditions to gain maximum input to vehicle performance and customer needs.

To assist with customer education, Toyota has launched a PHV demonstration program website – www.priusphv.com. At the site, visitors can learn more about the technology, follow the program's progress and, once the vehicles are deployed, track the performance of the demonstration program fleet. This transparent communication of vehicle performance and real world data will allow customers to make informed decisions when considering the purchase of a plug-in hybrid vehicle.

It's All About The Battery
The battery powering the Prius PHV is the first lithium-ion drive-battery developed by Toyota and its joint venture battery production company, Panasonic Electric Vehicle Energy (PEVE). In early November, PEVE began producing the first of more than 500 lithium batteries on a dedicated assembly line at its Teiho production facility in Japan.

PEVE is the world's leading producer of nickel-metal hydride batteries for automotive drive applications, having surpassed two million units in total production volume. Nickel-metal batteries are ideal for mass producing affordable conventional hybrid vehicles due to their low cost, excellent quality, high reliability and moderate-demand charge-sustaining operation. Lithium-ion batteries, on the other hand, are more promising for pure electric and plug-in hybrid applications which require higher energy density to meet the higher demands of charge-depleting operation (large swings in charge/discharge). And, although lithium-ion batteries are less expensive in terms of materials, they are more expensive than nickel-metal in terms of production costs.

This first-generation lithium battery has undergone more than three years of coordinated field testing in Japan, North America and Europe in a wide variety of climatic environments and driving conditions. Using approximately 150 conventional hybrids (mostly Prius), the field test vehicles logged well over a million combined miles. In the end, the battery was deemed both reliable and durable, confirming that it could indeed be used in conventional hybrid applications in the future, depending on further developments in cost reduction.

The battery will now be placed into service in the 500 Prius PHVs dedicated to Toyota's global demonstration program which begins in December. Operating in a more severe charge-depleting mode, the battery's overall performance in a broad range of vehicle-use applications will be confirmed.

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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 20 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      Toyota has a decent start here, for people with a shorter commute and a real desire to start moving to electric cars it might be ok. And if Toyota can stretch the AER to 20 miles it would appeal to a lot more people. And those people wouldn't have to pay for more battery than they need. I would prefer an AER of at least 30 miles, and it sounds like the Volt will be around 35, so I would tend to go with a Volt, if they can get the net price down below $30,000 by 2012, before the government incentives run out. I mail my last payment for my RAV4 in 3 months, so I can start saving for my Volt. Every prediction regarding future battery production numbers and future costs of production seems to be trending in the right direction but we will see.
      Buying the Volt isn't about getting the cheapest transportation, it is more about becoming more independent of foreign oil, but it would be very nice if it was a little less expensive than using an ICE.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The reason that Toyota have only gone for a 13 mile all elctric range is precisely because the Volt's range is too expensive to do at the moment.
        Most people do not live in the US, and for urban drivers the range is just fine.
        So in the world market you would not really increase the number of people considering the Prius greatly if you upped the range to 20 miles.
        Considering it from a mainly US perspective skews perceptions as the US market is not typical or the most suitable to reach a high level of plug-in penetration initially.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Hi,

      Here's hoping that Toyota starts selling these in quantity, and they decide to increase the battery pack 2-3X larger. And they work even harder on the aero -- close the upper grill, duct the ICE cooling to vents in low pressure areas, smoother wheel covers, rear wheel skirts, side view video mirrors. They can get it down to the 0.23 range, I'll bet!

      And put it on a diet: if the VW Up! Lite can carry four passengers with HALF the weight of the Prius, then I'll bet they could shave 800 pounds or so?

      Sincerely, Neil
      • 5 Years Ago
      Ooh 13 miles.. we're almost there to end dependency on gasoline.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "That blows my mind that 7.6 km is the median commute. That means that quite literally overnight, more than 50% of the population could easily cycle to work. Wow."
        Umm...do you know what winters temperatures are in Canada?
        It rather often hits -30C, not to mention the fact that you're suggesting that people bike on ice and snow while cars that can hardly see (because of the snow) drive behind and besides them...yeah, great idea.

        Seriously keep your retarded "everyone can bike to work because the weather is exactly like where I live everywhere" idea to yourself before you kill half the population of Canada.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "Median distance Canadians are traveling to work has increased to 7.6 kilometres in 2006. "[1]

        Because it's a median, it means that for the half of Canada population, this Prius Plug-in offers daily commuting with infinite mpg. ZERO fuel/crude oil burnt. On longer journeys, you are left with a 50-mpg be it city or highway hybrid.

        What will be this car lifetime mpg for majority of customers: miles driven divided by total gas burnt? 100 mpg US? I bet, even more.

        What 99% of Internet commenters fail to understand is that driving patterns are everything. You just want big shiny numbers, sadly offering no logic, reasoning, common sense and IQ when reading articles.


        [1] http://www.cbc.ca/consumer/story/2008/04/02/commute-statscan.html
        • 5 Years Ago
        That blows my mind that 7.6 km is the median commute. That means that quite literally overnight, more than 50% of the population could easily cycle to work. Wow.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @EVsuperhero

        Your argument boils down to "I'm a jerk, and everyone else in the USA is just like me". But in the real world some car buyers aren't like you, and it only takes a small fraction of them to buy all the planned production of plug-in vehicles for the next three years.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "Unfortunately a lot of people don't understand the difference between a Plugin Hybrid (this Prius) and an Electric vehicle (Volt, Tesla, etc.)"

        You mean people who say things like "If it needs oil changes, it's not an EV"?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Unfortunately a lot of people don't understand the difference between a Plugin Hybrid (this Prius) and an Electric vehicle (Volt, Tesla, etc.)
        • 5 Years Ago
        Most people don't really commute very far to work, and the Prius has always been a car best used in a city environment where stuff is usually within 13 miles.
        Also it's really 26 miles if you can find a plug.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @downtoearth
        "What 99% of Internet commenters fail to understand is that driving patterns are everything."
        -Exactly, nobody does the math anymore. They want it done for them with big shiny numbers. But since everyone's driving pattern is different, shiny numbers fail.

        @EVsuperhero
        "Big shinny numbers are in our DNA here in America. The advertisers know this. Hec most Americans would pick a nickle over a dime because it's bigger. Most 5yr olds too."

        Maybe we should focus on the education of drivers then. Make automated internet calculators that take individual driving patterns and come up with personalized values for automobiles. But are Americans too lazy to think beyond the TV commercial?

        @skierpage
        Actually EVsuperhero is right. And the automakers know that Americans are very stubbornly attached to their habit of filling up two weeks worth of energy in 5 minutes. Even if charging overnight saves them 90% of fuel money, they/we are creatures of habit. So automakers have to turn this around if they are going to sell any EVs.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Big shinny numbers are in our DNA here in America. The advertisers know this. Hec most Americans would pick a nickle over a dime because it's bigger. Most 5yr olds too.
        For the same reasons most Americans won't buy a EV until it goes 300 miles and refuels in less time than there ICE vehicles.

        It's realy all about convenience for the individual. Forget about the fact we are funding a war from both sides. Forget people are dying for oil. Forget that the true price of gas is over $10/gal minus the subsidies. Yes the country as a whole pays exorbitant prices for oil but for me it is cheap and convenient. The big picture isn't important. If I could get away with dumping my garbage in the street and not get caught I would because it is cheaper than paying the sanitation company to take care of it.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I agree with ziv in the fact that just to get away from foreign oil the better but i don't think the price of the volt will drop to low 30s for a few years atleast if they even drop it. I could see in 5 years maybe dropping to 30 or less if battery prices do indeed drop to $200/Kw that would be awesome.
      Me personally only need 10km one way so best option would be to give customers options like motors even though they haven't really been given us that option right...
      I'd love a small TDI or even a direct inj small gasser as my 92 jettas 1.8L 91hp (to the wheels) is still fun and thats why i want efficiency for pleasure that's why EV wins even 50km a day is more then enouff for less then a buck lol anys what ever works progress is progress I guess somehow backwards as this is....
      harlanx6
      • 5 Years Ago
      This would be usable for those with a very, very short commute, but you are dreaming if you think the cost/benefit ratio is going to make any sense to them much less to the rest of us.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        The electric motor in the non plug-in Prius is not really designed to run on it's own much, but the plug-in certainly is.
        If you are not accelerating rapidly onto high-speed roads it will cope on electric only just fine up to it's EV range.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @harlanx6
        Also the 13 miles is not the same as normal driving or driving a traditional EV - expect MASSIVE compromise to do it. The electric motor is not really intended to run on its own for extended driving it is there to assist the ICE.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Toyota better get it together or they will find themselves out in the cold. I'd much rather have a Leaf for much less money and the limited range isn't an issue, just go to a fast recharge station or tow a pusher trailer for the odd time you need it. And I have a feeling the majority of the population will end up agreeing with me when they see what a good EV can do. No more of this overly complicated expensive wimpy Prius crap to deal with.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Mark, I agree that EVs with rentable pusher trailers is just about personal transport utopia, but I think you're selling Toyota short. For one thing, I think the total cost of ownership of the Leaf, once you lease the battery pack, will be significant (I believe they've said it would be similar to conventional cars). For another, Toyota has been doing really great things with drive simplification, such as moving accessory loads over to electricity, eliminating belts -> simplifying under the hood and eliminating moving parts and wear items.
        It will be interesting to see how total costs shake out. I imagine in the long run, since the Plug-in Prius battery will still be fairly small (I assume
      • 5 Years Ago
      Oh Toyota, stop being so grumpy, it won't really hurt if people start plugging in their cars overnight to get a few grid based electricity miles every day (and those miles soon add up!).

      You know I thought plugging in was the natural evolution of the Prius even before I'd ever heard of a plug-in hybrid, and I expected Toyota to be ahead of the curve and thumbing their noses at the competition.
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