• Dec 4th 2009 at 8:29AM
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Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid - Click above for high-res image gallery

Toyota rather unceremoniously parked their plug-in Prius hybrid prototype 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 its big brother, the Lexus LFA.

The company did issue a press release, which you can read in its entirety after the jump. In it, they announce 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 more quickly than a traditional hybrid. The electric-only range is just 13 miles, but the Prius PHEV will be able to run all the way up to 60 mph in electric-only mode.

Beyond that, the plug-in Prius 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 PHEV 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 examples are coming Stateside. These first PHEV vehicles will serve as a test program for real world driving needs, kind of like the MINI E program going on right now. Toyota has already announced that Boulder, CO is going to be the first community to get some of these plug-in hybrids – a surefire way for Toyota 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.

Photos copyright ©2009 Frank Filipponio/Weblogs, Inc.
[Source: Toyota]


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
      • 5 Years Ago
      If Toyota brings this to market at $30k as a base price it's going to eat the Volt for lunch. First, it's got the Prius's heritage as an extremely reliable, high quality package. Second, it has the huge customer base of existing Prius owners who would probably pay double for the chance to drive one. Competition in the true hybrid market is going to seriously heat up, and all that hype (3 years running) for the Volt can't match more than a decade of experience in building reliable hybrid technology.

        • 5 Years Ago
        15 miles in EV mode will not offset the premium this car will cost over the regular prius. 15 miles wont get anyone to work and back. Its an afterthought to the original prius. If they want a good plug in hybrid they are going to need to do a fairly complete redesign to make full use of system.

        I cant foresee this being any kind of viable contender to the Volt. The volt has all the right specs in place to make the car much more useful than this car.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I definitely agree with this.

        Toyota might be able to reap the rewards of having a THIRD generation hybrid (and actually, if this is a plug-in, it might even be called a forth-gen), while other automakers are barely on their first-gen products.

        It is extremely difficult to catch up to that kind of lead - Toyota has had a dozen years of testing and retesting with a real-world product and not just lab tests and engineering prototypes. Next year's PHEV Prius is going to be in limited quantities, which would give the Volt a leg up, but I could see Toyota ramping up production quickly if testing goes smoothly.

        I just hope that the Volt way exceeds expectations (both in performance and in having a lower price than expected), or else a plug-in Prius could roll right over it.
        • 5 Years Ago
        IK, Prius looks like a Prius, Volt looks better in my opinion.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Lius, I doubt the plug-in Prius would cost the consumer any less than the Volt.

        The Prius does have the heritage advantage. The Volt has the range advantage and the fact that it can do highway speeds (60mph isn't really highway speeds).

        It'll be an interesting fight to watch.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "15 miles in EV mode will not offset the premium this car will cost over the regular prius."
        How do you already know the premium? It's definitely less of a premium than the Volt has, and the car gets the best mileage out there even after the 15 miles so the actual operating cost difference between it and a plugin that can go farther are going to be tiny.

        Plus, for people who can charge their cars at work even driving 40 miles a day would only end up burning 10 miles worth of gasoline. Which on a Prius is a fifth of a gallon of gas or like 50 cents of gas...if this is priced thousands less than a Volt it'd easily win on price since it'd only burn like $200 of gasoline in a year.

        I certainly drive less than 15 miles to work everyday and I'm sure there's plenty of other people who don't drive all that far either, so if this is a lot cheaper than the Volt then the Volt ends up only targeting people who drive like 60 miles per day to work, since people who drive a lot more would eventually get better mileage if they stuck with a dual-mode hybrid and people who drive a lot less wouldn't burn enough gas to make the premium worth it.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Whatever company makes the Prius is F-in stupid, man. Are they seriously going to use Li-Ion batteries? The greenest car company in the biz, Toyota, already laid down the facts about how much those suck!

        • 5 Years Ago
        would it not make sence to make this a Diesel car than a electric car. As a Canadian we ship more nickel to china so they can produce and make batters to japan. and the big question is what happens after eight years when the batters are toast? i guess we will send it back to a land fill.

        I think this is a huge waste of time and moneys producing these cars. Toyota in Japan has one of the better clean diesel they use in other countrys.

        this car is going to be a pig to get rid of in eight years.

        I would rather buy a Diesel any day.

        Sorry Toyota. maybe that why you are going down in market share so quick here in Canada.
        Just a hint check out vw.com and look into the TDI>>>
        • 5 Years Ago
        I forgot a big one. The Volt is going to beat the plug-in Prius to market by a couple of years.
      • 5 Years Ago
      60 mph is too low for highway passing. It is ok for city driving though.
      • 5 Years Ago
      So I haven't been keeping up with the prius plugin, but they were thinking early that they'd be going full electric drive to the wheels with the engine just as a backup, did they end up going that way?
      If not why did it take them so bloody long to chuck in some better batteries and a charger?
      • 5 Years Ago
      "all the way up to 60mph in EV mode" is a strange use of the words "all the way" to me. Usually you use all the way to mean how good something is. But if you've take a Prius "all the way" up to the 35mph limit in EV mode, you know how garbage it is. You have to be completely level ground, lightly loaded and you'd better have a ton of patience. I would not be surprised if this thing is the same way to 60mph. I would expect the 0-60 is on the order of 30-40 seconds in EV mode.

      This is a parallel hybrid. Preclude the gas engine and you've taken away half its power (I'm being generous too, on the non-LIon version its more like 2/3rds its power).
        • 5 Years Ago
        "This is a parallel hybrid."

        This is why Toyota's been so quiet on the plug-in front. Parallel systems can't make very good electric cars, since the electric motor is intended as an assist to the gas engine rather than being the prime mover. It seems like they're very reluctant to bite the bullet and do the engineering necessary to develop any series hybrid tech (can't blame them, they've put a lot of money into the Synergy Drive). But I think they risk falling very far behind if GM gets the Voltec system ironed out early. Time will tell.
      • 5 Years Ago
      What about Honda? Are they planning a plug in car as well?
      • 5 Years Ago
      More important than range is power. It takes a lot less power to cruise at 60mph flat and level than it does to accelerate from zero. Most hybrids today have really wimpy power outputs. To be usable in full EV mode it has to put out something like 100 HP. Current hybrids are nowhere near. The Volt is, I think, about 140HP which matches a lot of compact gasoline cars.

      Why do they never ever list power output in these press releases? Leads one to believe it sucks.
        • 5 Years Ago
        It'd be fine with 65HP. At 80HP it could get to 60 in well under 20 seconds.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Toyota should never have bothered. The incremental improvement over the base Prius won't be worth the price premium, but neither is the Volt going to be worth it, either.

      Even if these cars didn't use ANY fuel, they're not worth it. The issue is whether people enjoy the driving and ownership experience. IMO, plug-in hybrids own their owners, not the other way around.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Drive your Gen 2 Prius within the range of performance that works with just the electric motor and you should see about the same kind of efficiency that this will have in EV mode.

      No: the Gen 2 is not capable of going at the speed of 35 mph for 5-10 miles in pure electric mode.

      The overall economy of the Prius is--like any other car, but even more so--a matter of averages. If I get 60 mpg on the highway, but 30 mpg from my home to the highway, then the AVERAGE of my mpg will come down to (say) 55 mpg.

      However, in the plug-in, I ought to be able to have a speed of 35 mph, go 6 to 10 miles WITHOUT USING ANY GAS. That means mathematically, for that stretch of the road, I am getting INFINITE mpg. So on the same tank of gas, I ought to get noticeably higher mileage. The more I drive in that "infinite" mode on the same tank of gas, the higher my average will be.

      Two more points on averages: Once I go 420 miles on a tank, it is almost impossible to change the average by more than .1 or .2 gallons. I've simply driven too much for any particular condition (say, a hill) to influence the average positively or negatively. Again, the benefit of the plug-in is that it would remove the low averages of short-distance driving from the "equation."

      An analogy from grades at the end of a semester: it takes a major change in a student's grade on the last essay to impact the final percentage. (A typical course has 6-10 grades.) But a 0 or 100 has a significant effect. (That's why I tell my students: better something than nothing.) In the same way, INFINITE mileage for an extended stretch (especially in contrast to 30-40 mpg) will have a significant and noticeable effect on the overall efficiency.

      No experienced Prius driver would ever imagine there is some "magic button." It is a matter of careful driving, and learning to accept the vagaries of road and weather. By now, my average is going down. It will reach a low point in January and February. By mid-March, weather permitting (bring on the warming!), it will start increasing again. These facts are as certain as the facts of the seasons.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The electric-only range is 13 miles for this Prius.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm an owner of a second-gen Prius. I drive between 50 and 110 miles per day (I'm a adjunct college teacher at 3 different schools). Let me explain why I want this plug-in, & why its fuel-saving strategy is perfect for me.

      Overall my mileage is fine: 49/50 in winter, up to 56 in summer, average of 52-4 mpg. (Before E85, I got 58 summer.) But the short-distance driving drags that percentage down significantly. I can tell because there is a 5-8 mpg difference between a tankful of gas that goes almost all long-distance, and a tankful that includes a lot of short-distant driving.

      Running 2-3 miles into town, around the neighborhood, and getting to the Interstate is the mpg killer: 30-40 mpg, going 30-45 mph. The Prius plug-in would maximize my savings by allowing me to go 5-10 miles at low speed on all-electric. The overall 14 mile range for all-electric is perfect for several short-distance runs, or getting to the Interstate. Once on the main roads, my mpg jumps to 55-75. I would expect the plug-in to provide a significant increase in the overall average gas consumption: the 60-65 range cited elsewhere sounds right. I'm hoping, with my driving style, I could get 70 in the summer.

      One caveat: the price cannot be significantly more than the top-of-the-line Prius.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Thanks for explaining the benefit of this vehicle and who it benefits. You have to understand, we have many D3 lover dunderheads who care for nothing but flash and horsepower. Obviously this vehicle is not for them, they pretend to care and bash a hybrid every chance they get.
      • 5 Years Ago

      First Toyota claimed the volt and its li-on batteries was stupid to develop.

      Now, Toyota is saying. "ME TOO!!! ME TOO!!!", "Plug in hybrids are cool now because we're going to have one!"

      I wonder if their lack of sufficient powertrain torque security logic will be a feature of this creampuff?
      • 5 Years Ago
      I don't doubt this Prius can be successful, but what makes you say that current Prius owners will gladly pay double to drive this car? I don't think anyone wants to pay THAT much for a Toyota.

      And there are also a few concerns to consider, namely the weaksauce range when running in electric only mode. 60 mph for 13 miles means only 13 minutes of operation at that speed. For anyone who has even only a modest commute to work/college (I drive about 60 miles a day), it just doesn't seem to be worth the initial investment on the car. I wonder just how much more fuel efficient over the current Prius this will be; maybe my expectations are too high.

      Also, not to mention that charging stations aren't widely available, except perhaps in the most urbanized and well-maintained cities (I've never seen one myself, except at airports, but who's gonna stop by the airport for 1.5-3 hours to charge their car, and pay to enter the parking structure?!). I also hope the charging cables are retractable, to avoid driving over them and potentially damaging them.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Meh...you're probably right; it's just that I enjoy driving so much (even in horrible, rage-inducing LA traffic) I just don't notice it as much.

        Regardless, that sentiment/stigma of 13-mile-at-60-mph range still applies. Unless you're a die-hard Prius fan, seeing that on paper just doesn't feel very appealing.

        Still, kudos to Toyota for steady progress towards cleaner energy (albeit a lot of electricity isn't produced cleanly, but at least it will help decrease our dependence on oil!)
        • 5 Years Ago
        "If people install home-chargers along with solar panels then they can help supply the grid with electricity during the day (when they're out driving) while taking it back at night... making up some of their usage. With expanded wind, solar, geo-thermal, etc., we can seriously put a dent in our fossil-fuel usage in general and our reliance on foreign energy in particular."

        People can do this now but they dont - you dont need an electric car for this to make sense. Problem is that the government gives the big tax rebates on cars and not to retrofit a house with panels. Almost every house in every climate and region can, at least, heat water with a solar panel. There should be a much greater push for solar panels at home. I would install if the buy back was not 30 years, just not cost effective yet.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I dont think the batteries will run full out 60mph for 13miles. Maybe, but that is doubtful. I am sure the 13 miles is given more moderate driving speeds.

        If most people only drive 25-30 miles per day (as Luis claims) the Volt will allow them to use 0 gas. The Prius cant do that. However, if the PI-Prius is substantially cheaper (it will also get a tax rebate) it could be enough for people to compromise on the performance difference. I assume the price tag on this will not inflate to $40K so I am pretty confident it will undercut the Volt. I assume the Prius could be around $30K but who knows?

        • 5 Years Ago
        So, are the cost of those solar panels included in the price of the car? They are, after all, so incredibly affordable.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I guess the goal is to charge at home and do those short trips, but the ICE engine is still in the car so you really do not have to worry about getting stranded.

        Everyone knows that there are no charging stations out there, there's only one, it is your home. Now if that range can be extended to say 100 miles after being fully charged, that really changes the game.
        • 5 Years Ago
        60 miles/day is not a modest commute. It's a lot of driving. Most Americans drive less than 20-25 miles/day.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The cables in the charging station cables I've seen are retractable. So that helps. PHEVs are not geared for people who have to park on the street or drive as much as you do. They are for people who have garages to charge at home, for fleet customers who can install chargers, etc. Installing them in public parking garages is also feasible, as they already have access to the grid. They aren't for everyone, but they will work for enough people to have a possibly huge dent in our fossil fuel usage.
        • 5 Years Ago
        If people install home-chargers along with solar panels then they can help supply the grid with electricity during the day (when they're out driving) while taking it back at night... making up some of their usage. With expanded wind, solar, geo-thermal, etc., we can seriously put a dent in our fossil-fuel usage in general and our reliance on foreign energy in particular.

        • 5 Years Ago
        Why Not:

        I am more pessimistic, especially when taking into account:
        - Panel installation
        - Panel breakage (or insurance)
        - Panel maintenance
        - Panel replacement
        - Wiring
        - Batteries
        - Battery storage and maintenance
        - Battery replacement

        That's just cost.

        The average power output is typically well below peak efficiency. The sun moves and is often obstructed (clouds, snow, the planet, etc).

        Once everything is taken into account, the payback just isn't there.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Sorry, the above post is a reply to Luis' first post.
        • 5 Years Ago
        In addition to the hefty initial cost of installing all of these infrastructure upgrades, there are also pesky rules and lots of red tape to clear. If you live in a community with a Home Owner's Association, it will also cost you a lot of aspirin.
        • 5 Years Ago
        My calculations are a lot more encouraging than yours. If the price if electricity stays constant, then solar panels have a 12 year payback and a 25-30 year lifespan. So it's better than a wash, it does actually save money in the long term.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Luis: "If people install home-chargers along with solar panels"

        That costs a lot more and produces a lot less power than the media would have you believe. Chances are that, with current tech, you will never get a return on your investment.
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