2010 Plug-in Prius Prototype – Click above for high-res image gallery

When Inside Line tested Toyota's Plug-in Prius last June, the team averaged 62 miles per gallon over 500 odd miles of driving. Then, last September, the California Center for Sustainable Energy reported that the Plug-in Prius it had been piloting for seven weeks and 3,450 miles returned 83 mpg. When Fully Charged's Robert Llewellyn landed a chance to ring out Toyota's plug-in hybrid (PHV), the Prius' gauge displayed an average of 87 mpg.

With mileage numbers like those, the Plug-in Prius' fuel efficiency is near the top of the heap. So, why then was Plugin Cars' Brad Berman "slightly" dissatisfied after driving Toyota's PHV? Here's a hint: it has nothing to do with the Prius' fuel efficiency.

Berman argues that the Prius' lack of an EV button that would "allow drivers to absolutely keep the gas engine off when they know it's not necessary" is a critical omission on behalf of Toyota. Berman explains his dissatisfaction like this:
Some observers-and Toyota executives-might say that's [the lack of an EV button] no big deal, because it's the overall efficiency that matters most, and 99.9-plus mpg is damn good. That argument undermines just how annoying any use of the gas engine is after you've become accustomed to not using it and how frustrating it is to use any gasoline when you know that you'll be back home and charging up again with plenty of energy still in your battery pack.
Oddly, the standard third-generation Toyota Prius has an EV button but, for some unknown reason, the plug-in version lacks it. Berman questioned Toyota regarding this omission and the automaker responded with this:
Let's just say we're very aware of the issue of no EV button. It hasn't escaped us at all.
Sounds like that button might be added back in before the Plug-in Prius' launch in 2012.

Photos by Sebastian Blanco / Copyright ©2010 AOL

[Source: Plugin Cars]

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