Toyota Prius PHEV prototype - click above for high-res image gallery
According to Japan's Nikkei news agency, Toyota has decided to start series production of a plug-in version of the Prius hybrid in 2012. At launch, the automaker plans to build about 20,000-30,000 units a year of the plug-in hybrid. The report indicates that the model will be priced comparably to the Mitsubishi i-MiEV at about $48,000. That's a pretty steep price and quite a bit higher than the $40,000 pricetag expected to be applied to the Chevrolet Volt when it arrives late next year, and it also puts the PHEV Prius at about twice the price of a conventional model.
The PHEV Prius will likely be the first product to use lithium ion batteries produced by Panasonic EV Energy Co. The battery is expected to provide about 12-18 miles of range, although it's not clear how much of that will be possible without running the engine. We'll probably have a better idea of that next year after the 500 or so prototypes go into test fleets starting late this year.