Toyota ready to test plug-in hybrid in Japan

We reported a while ago that Toyota was developing a plug-in version of its popular Prius hybrid, but we weren't sure when we'd finally see it on the road. Well, the waiting is over. Today, Toyota rolled out the plug-in Prius for public road tests in Japan. That makes Toyota the first manufacturer to get government approval to conduct tests for plug-in hybrids on Japanese public roads, that is, according to Toyota spokespeople. A small fleet of eight plug-ins will be driven around to collect data about emissions and fuel efficiency. Similar test fleets are planned for the U.S. and Europe.
Toyota's move to try plug-in hybrid technology comes in response to pressure both from the U.S. government and environmental groups who have called on automakers to look beyond hybrids for other solutions to our nation's energy problems. Automakers have been hesitant, however, because plug-in hybrids require larger, more expensive battery packs that can withstand being charged to full capacity and drained completely on a daily basis. Ford (California Escapes) and GM (Volt) have shown similar plug-in projects, so getting these on the road for testing might help Toyota become the first automaker with a plug-in hybrid on the market. This despite the fact that they just announced the Camry Hybrid hasn't been selling as well as was hoped. Maybe adding a plug would help.

Press release after the jump.

Thanks to HybridX for the tip!

[Source: Toyota]


Japan Certifies Toyota Plug-in Hybrid for Public-road Tests

Tokyo - TOYOTA MOTOR CORPORATION (TMC) announced today that it has developed a plug-in hybrid vehicle and become the first manufacturer to have such a vehicle certified for use on public roads in Japan.

The TOYOTA Plug-in HV - certified for public road-use by Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport - uses, like earlier TMC-developed hybrid vehicles, both a gasoline-powered internal combustion engine and an electric motor. But increased battery capacity gives it a longer electric-motor-only cruising range and a battery-charging device allows users to replenish the batteries using household electricity. These features enable the vehicle to run more often in gasoline-free, electric-only mode, such as on short trips in city driving. The resulting fuel efficiency improvements mean lower CO2 emissions and less fossil fuel consumption and, therefore, less pollution. Also, charging the battery with less-expensive nighttime electricity lowers total running costs, providing an economic benefit to owners.

Although challenges still exist in the development of pure electric vehicles such as a limited cruising range and issues related to cost, TMC still views plug-in hybrid vehicles as a promising technology for allowing electricity to serve as a viable power source for automobiles and is committed to their continued development as a key environmental technology.

TMC plans to conduct public-road tests in Japan with eight units of the TOYOTA Plug-in HV to verify electric-motor-only cruising ranges and optimal battery capacity. While doing so, it plans to provide the government with data for formulating testing methods for emissions and fuel efficiency and to consider TMC's measures for promoting plug-in hybrids and the use of electricity. There are also plans to conduct public-road tests of the TOYOTA Plug-in HV in the United States and in Europe.

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