About a month ago, we got our hands on the Prius plug-in hybrid prototype for a brief drive. While we walked away pleased with the overall efforts from Toyota, we're a bit upset to learn that the vehicle lacks the ability to charge its two additional battery packs on the fly. As it turns out, the plug-in Prius can only juice up those packs by plugging it into an outlet. In case you're wondering, yes the plug-in Prius does have regenerative braking, but the power retrieved only goes to the main battery pack, not to the supporting cast of batteries that come along for the ride in the plug-in version.
What does this mean in regards to performance and efficiency? Basically, once the additional battery packs are depleted, the vehicle becomes a standard Prius until it's plugged in again. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it does show us that there's still room for some improvement. AllCarsElectric spoke with Dave Lee, a former technical trainer on the Prius plug-in program. He hinted that adding the ability to charge to the auxiliary packs via regenerative braking might be on the way soon. As Lee said:
One thing to note though, the plug-in Prius has an electric-only range of about 12 miles on a full charge. Lee suggests that sending power from regenerative braking to the additional packs may add a couple of miles to that range. If you ask us, it's probably not worth it, but if consumers decide that it's a make it or break it type of thing, than Toyota may be inclined to make the change.I would anticipate us making a change. That would make sense. What we have in this car, may not be what we offer going forward.